Sandy Alderson is on record saying he wants to acquire a catcher with considerable major league experience as insurance should Travis d’Arnaud succumb to another injury. I said this last year, and I’ll do so again now. The Mets would serve themselves well by signing A.J. Pierzynski.
In 503 at-bats last season for the Texas Rangers, he batted .272, hit 24 doubles, 17 home runs and drove in 70 runs. Defensively, he threw out would be base stealers at an excellent rate of 33% in 73 opportunities, and posted a near perfect .998 fielding percentage.
Sep 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers designated hitter A.J. Pierzynski (12) reacts to hitting a double in the fifth inning of the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
He demise was prematurely heralded during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, in which he only hit 9 and 8 home runs respectively. Then in 2012, he posted perhaps his best offensive season at age thirty-six, which only fueled naysayers when I broached the idea of signing him last off-season. Granted, at this stage of his career A.J. will most likely never replicate 27 home runs again, but there is no denying he is enjoying an extended and productive swan song.
A.J. Piersynski is fresh off his twelfth straight season averaging 133 games played. Last year was also the first time he exceeded 500 at-bats since the 2009 season, and only the fourth time he surpassed that mark in his career.
His last campaign with the Chicago White Sox indeed turned out to be his career best effort. But with 17 home runs in 2013, he has now surpassed double-digit home runs nine times in his career, with two of his top three home run seasons coming in the last two years. Last year also marked only the second time Pierzynski topped 70 RBI in back-to-back seasons. He last accomplished that over the 2003 and 2004 seasons. They represent the only four seasons A.J. surpassed 70 RBI. So much for the demise of A.J. Pierzynski.
He played for eight seasons on Chicago’s South Side. In 2005, A.J. helped the Windy City win their first championship in 88 years. He earned $6 million in his final season with the White Sox. Many at the time believed Pierzynski would be seeking a three year deal. That was one of the counter-arguments I heard last year. He then inked a one year contract with Texas for $7.5 million. There was a short list of interested teams last off-season, and I believe there will be an equally short list of interested parties this off-season.
I know some are leery of his personality. I’m not one of them. I believe those who feel that way are mistaken. He’s just one of those guys the opposition loves to hate. He may appear to have many enemies to the outside world, but he has resoundingly been credited with being an exceptional teammate.
With regard to Sandy Alderson, A.J. Pierzynski fits, if not exceeds the GM’s criteria, possessing championship level experience. What better mentor for the Mets’ still rookie catcher, Travis d’Arnaud? Travis did not benefit from playing along side a quality veteran like John Buck last season. I feel the knowledge Pierzynski can impart upon the Mets young catcher would be immeasurably beneficial for not only him, but for the Mets stable of young arms as well. Besides, is it outlandish to consider having Travis back-up Pierzynski for a season while the rookie better learns his craft?
I’m not going to say d’Arnaud is injury prone, but baseballs do have a knack for finding unprotected parts of his body. He has also received a few back swings to the head as well. So, having A.J. in the fold would ensure continuity behind the plate, should in fact something unfortunately go wrong. On the days he plays, A.J. would additionally offer the line-up much needed protection (perhaps) batting sixth as an example. At this point, any protection the Mets can provide behind David Wright is welcome. As Pierzynski bats left handed, the two catchers could conceivably even be platooned. A.J. actually only started 111 games behind the plate last year and served as DH 12 other times. So, there should be enough innings to go around. The stability he would bring otherwise I feel is well worth the investment.
With regards to Mr. Wilpon’s money, A.J. will be 37-years old this December, and I believe he can be had for one season at $5.75 million. If it takes $6 million, I’d hesitate, then sign him anyway! If the Mets are indeed committed to investing money into their 2014 product, then spend some of it wisely for a change on A.J. Pierzynski. Does this fit into the 2014 budget? That depends how much it takes to secure a slugging outfielder and maybe a starting pitcher. Otherwise, I say make it fit. I believe this is in the best interest of the team.