I never thought I’d find myself writing these words… but I think the Jays should inquire about … A.J. Pierzynski. Weird..
Considering the Jays acquisition of defensive wizard Bobby Wilson and veteran John Buck to complement incumbent starter J.P. Arencibia, the team’s top prospect Travis d’Arnaud and recently 40-manned AJ Jimenez, it seems that the last thing that the Jays need is to acquire another catcher. However, there is a case to be made about one free agent catcher in particular that may interest the suddenly active Toronto Blue Jays. Left-handed hitting AJ Pierzynski, most recently of the Chicago White Sox, could serve as the perfect complement to any of the catchers already in the system. For his career, he’s hit .291/.334/.442 for .776 OPS vs. right-handed pitchers in 4857 PAs; and in 2012, was even better, hitting .287/.338/.536 for an .874 OPS in 399 PAs. He’s a solid defensive catcher as well providing positive dWAR in all but one of his full seasons (2011).
I believe Pierzynski will find a full-time role and more money elsewhere, but I believe if the difference were not so great between the Jays’ offer that of a non-contender, he may opt to leave money on the table in order to be a part of a run at a championship.
If the Jays could sign Pierzynski, it would allow them to move Buck and/or Arencibia knowing the position would not be a black hole in the lineup. Given that Arencibia would fetch the greatest return given his youth/remaining upside/years of control, I’d imagine Alex Anthopoulos would prefer to move him in any potential deal, most likely in a package for starting rotation depth. Moving John Buck would likely require the team to eat a significant portion of his 2013 salary of $6M or include prospects without even garnering any return. Considering Buck’s familiarity with 4/5ths of the Blue Jays starting staff and his past success in the Rogers Centre/AL East, you would be hard pressed to find a team that Buck would be more valuable to than the Blue Jays anyways.
If Pierzynski were signed and Arencibia traded for rotation help, the team would likely start the year with a catching tandem of John Buck/AJ Pierzynski with Bobby Wilson serving as the 3rd catcher. When d’Arnaud has shown he’s recovered from his knee injury and perhaps more importantly, avoided Super 2 status (potentially saving the team millions of dollars), the Jays would be free to flip John Buck when his salary remaining is less and teams are in need of a mid-season injury replacement.
Though he may not be the most likable guy in baseball, Pierzynski has shown he can be a useful hitter especially against right-handed pitchers. A pick-up like Pierzynski might help push a team like the Jays over the top if he were deployed correctly and John Gibbons has shown in the past he is the man to try it. He’s likely looking to improve upon the $4M per deal he signed after a poor 2010, but considering his age and poor history against left-handed pitching, it might not be that much more. Giving him a two-year deal with an option/small buyout at $5-6M per season would not bankrupt the team and might actual be the ideal way to ease the Catcher-of-the-Future Travis d’Arnaud into his new role. However, he’ll probably wind up getting paid more. If go-for-it teams like the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees fill their void at catcher elsewhere (Arencibia), then Toronto could become more attractive than a fringe competitor.