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Red Sox should stay away from A.J. Pierzynski

Posted by Adam Kaufman  November 11, 2013 05:09 PM

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This much, you know: The Red Sox are in need of a starting catcher for the 2014 season.

It won’t be World Series favorite David Ross, though the soon-to-be 37-year-old veteran will see more than his fair share of time behind the plate if he avoids injury.

Ryan Lavarnway? No chance. He hit .299 with a .768 OPS (both well-above his limited career averages of .208 and .585, respectively) in just 25 games as a fine complementary piece, but he’ll never be more than that in Boston’s organization for the foreseeable future, if ever.

Pawtucket’s own Christian Vazquez, ranked the Sox’ 13th-best prospect by SoxProspects, had a solid 2013 season in Double-A Portland, but his next step is spending more than one game at Triple-A.

So the question becomes, who’s the answer?

Free agents Jarrod Saltalamacchia (of the Sox), Brian McCann (Braves), and Carlos Ruiz (Phillies) are the favorites, but all will likely require multiple-year commitments, some loftier than others.

A fourth name has recently garnered some attention as well: Veteran A.J. Pierzynski.

No thanks.

Also on the verge of turning 37, it’s easy on the surface to understand why Pierzynski would merit consideration.

AJ Pierzynski.jpg

The lefthanded 2005 World Series winner is a career .283 hitter with a .750 OPS and he’s coming off of a healthy and productive year with the Rangers in which he hit .272 with 17 homers and 70 RBI in 134 games. For that matter, Pierzynski hasn’t appeared in fewer than 128 games (or 118 behind the plate) since 2001, and he’s only spent 35 days on the disabled list over the last decade.

Plus, the Sox wouldn’t have to surrender draft pick compensation for the power hitter’s services and could sign him to a one-year deal in the seven-figure range (he earned $7.5 million last season) to potentially serve as a nice bridge to Vazquez or the more highly-touted, but less advanced first-rounder, Blake Swihart.

But

Ignoring the fact that he walked just 11 times in 2013 and doesn’t take many pitches – not exactly the Red Sox’ formula for success – he’s also regarded as a world-class jerk who is routinely featured among baseball’s most-hated lists. Opponents don’t like him, and one of his old teammates in San Francisco once called him a cancer.

Said Ozzie Guillen, who managed Pierzynski for seven seasons with the White Sox: “If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less.”

Bringing it closer to home, Jake Peavy went nose-to-nose with his former batterymate a couple years back when the two played together in Chicago.

Sure, it’d be easy to argue that Ross, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, and the rest of the defending World Series champs have more than enough personality in their reinvented clubhouse to squash the threat of any incoming controversial personalities, but why invite the potential distraction to the Fens? Especially after the personality-cleansing rebirth provided by the Dodgers.

Other, less embattled options are available.

The only reason Pierzynski’s name is even mentioned is his performance-for-cost benefit – and that’s dependent upon an aging backstop continuing to produce offensively while also being at least tolerable defensivly.

McCann, a perennial All-Star and a good friend of Ross from their time together in Atlanta, appears to be the team’s preferred option, but some reports have him commanding as much as $100 million over six years. He’s not remotely worth that, in dollars or time.

The Red Sox should stick to their new philosophy, which guided them to a far-earlier-than-expected title. Short-term deals, even if they require a little extra money.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia 2.jpg

For that, in part because of his improved performance and familiarity with the team and partially because Ruiz will be a 35-year-old righty, the switch-hitting Saltalamacchia is the answer.

Personally, I would have extended him a qualifying offer, though I understand why Boston did not. If you might be able to re-sign a guy for two or three years at $10 or so million per (a big might on the open market), why give him a nearly $10 million raise and surrender $14.1 million for one? I suppose that depends how far off the prospects are. The difference now, however, is that other clubs will be interested in his services and he’s free to negotiate with each and every one of them.

For now, the return of Saltalamacchia remains a possibility, and hopefully it will become a reality. Either way, I hope we’re done hearing about Pierzynski.

Follow me on Twitter at @AdamMKaufman

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About this blog

Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.

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