I want the Mets to make a genuine and concerted effort towards signing A.J. Pierzynski this off-season. The Mets three most glaring needs lie in the bullpen, the outfield, and behind the plate. I am a huge fan of Josh Thole. But for the moment let’s leave him out of the this.
As an aging free agent catcher, he might raise a red flag for some GM’s around the league. But I think A.J. Pierzynski is still a catcher well worth acquiring, and feel Sandy Alderson should pursue him aggressively.
There is no secret A.J. Pierzynski and the Chicago White Sox share a good repoire. His value as a receiver is not lost on GM Kenny Williams. Pierzynski has always walked to his own beat, so there are strong indications he just may defy free agency trends and give the White Sox a home town discount.
A.J. Pierzynski will be thirty six years old this coming December. Even so, the catcher is coming off his best offensive campaign. In 479 official at-bats, he clubbed twenty seven home runs and drove in seventy seven runs. Both were career highs. Smart GM’s will not be persuaded to over-spend based on those numbers alone. Although some GM’s might, and that may wind up getting the White Sox involved a bidding war they may not want to participate in. At any rate, I want the Mets involved.
If he can hit twelve home runs and drive in sixty runs for the Mets, great! But A.J. Pierzynski’s true value comes in durability, being a good receiver with experience, playing with attitude, and veteran leadership; not to mention he brings some World Series schwag he can impart on a young team.
This last season, he topped 130 games played for the eighth time in his career. After twelve years as a starter, he is showing no obvious signs of wear and tear or imminent break down. Instead, he has steadily averaged 131 games played since the 2001 season. A.J. Pierzynski throws out runners at a lifetime 24% clip. Josh Thole threw out runners at a 25% clip last season. Both backstops caught no-hitters. Only A.J. Pierzynski has a ring. But comparing the two catchers is needless and wholly unfair to Josh Thole. Truth is, there is no comparison even at age thirty six.
A.J.’s value to the Mets would go beyond the obvious. He is an alpha-catcher. He will demand performance and fortitude from Jon Niese and Dillon Gee, at the same time relieving Dan Warthen of that burden. Pierzynski and Matt Harvey appear to be two hard-asses who were made for each other. Additionally, I believe his experience can serve other kids like Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, and Zach Wheeler extremely well.
His value still extends even beyond that. The man hates to lose. And this directly address the issue SNY’s Bob Ojeda so harshly criticized the Mets about as the season wound down. The former Mets hurler had very poignant words regarding what he perceived as an increasing acceptance of defeat permeating the team. If there is anyone in the game today who can be relied upon to call out defeatism when he sees it from his team mates, it is A.J. Pierzynski. He is the right man to make certain players feel uncomfortable about playing with acceptance, apathy, and ambivalence. His reputation is well deserved and exactly what the Mets need. He wouldn’t be coming here to make friends, although he is resoundingly considered a great team mate. Even if the Mets only get one or two years as a starter out of him, a three year deal at a slight premium is well worth it. Even if he is a part time player for two of three years, I still find him worth the investment.
Yes…, the investment. His two year $8 million dollar deal is expiring. What will it take for the Chicago White Sox to retain him? Then what will it take for another team to woo him away? Then, how much is he worth to the Mets? Let’s give Pierzynski a raise across the board. Let’s say the White Sox offer him $10 million for another two years. Then suppose another team comes in at three years for $13 million. If I am the Mets, I gladly come in at $14 or $15 million for three years. Of course, that last figure can easily stray into a tangent about the Mets not being able to afford $5 million dollars per for a catcher. On that, we will have to wait and see.
I do not want Josh Thole to disappear from the future. He still has a fan in me. Let Thole learn his craft for a few more seasons behind A.J. Pierzynski. I am fully aware and fine with the fact the Mets would have two left handed catchers. For now, that is a trivial detail, and hardly enough to alter my want for A.J. Pierzynski in a Mets uniform. Find balance in the line-up while reconstructing the outfield, and resign yourself to the fact your catcher will bat lefty. A.J. Pierzynski may arguably be the best catcher available on the market this off-season. That is inconsequential to the real matters facing the Mets. He is simply the right catcher for the Mets over the next two or three years.