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  • Should the Twins be interested in AJ Pierzynski?

    On Monday night, the Pioneer Press's Mike Berardino tweeted that an MLB Official told him that the Twins were no longer "in the mix" on AJ Pierzynski. In recent days, it had been reported that the Twins and Pierzynski's representatives were making progress in contract discussions.

    UPDATE - Monday morning, it was announced the Pierzynski has reached terms with the Boston Red Sox. What does that mean for the Twins pursuit of a catcher? Discuss in the Forum!

    I just can't help but thinking whether the Twins really should be considering a reunion with AJ Pierzynski. So, I thought I'd write it out to see what I thought. He really has had a very good MLB career. He was an All-Star in 2002. He had the best numbers of his career as a Minnesota Twins catcher. He hit .301/.341/.447 (.788) in his time with the Twins and played in the 2002 All-Star game. In 2003, he hit .312/.360/.464 (.824) the season before he was traded. He was a very good player.

    In my mind, it makes absolutely no sense for the Twins to bring back the 37 year old catcher. Some may think it is his personality that makes me think this. Not the case at all.

    As Ozzie Guillen famously once said of Pierzynski, "If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less."

    That is not the reason for not bringing him in, however.

    Twins fans have been booing Pierzynski ever since he left. First, I am not a person who believes in booing people, so I have never partaken in that ridiculousness. I've never understood it. He was huge in the Twins' last playoff series win. He was a big part of the organization's turnaround in the early years of this century. He did not ask to leave. He was traded. And in that trade the Twins acquired Boof Bonser, Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan. That turned out pretty well for the Twins, particularly when you consider it also opened the door for Joe Mauer to play.

    Sure, there were the times he would try to clip Justin Morneau's feet as he ran by first base on ground balls. Sure, he is an irritant. But again, those are not reasons for the Twins to not bring back Pierzynski.

    Joe Mauer has moved to first base full time, and the Twins could use a veteran catcher. They have Josmil Pinto, but he could use some mentorship, or even some additional time in AAA in 2014. So, it does make sense to bring in a player like Pierzynski.

    Pierzynski has been a winner throughout his career. That is a phrase the Twins have used a lot this offseason. Some may believe his personality has helped his teams to the playoffs. Others say that he's been just one piece on the teams he has been on.

    He has been remarkably durable through his career. Annually, he has played in no fewer than 128 games since the 2002 season. That said, he went on the disabled list for the first time in his career in 2013. Not that that means anything necessarily, but it's certainly not unusual for a catcher at 37 to start getting hurt more often.

    So, I have acknowledged that it is not his personality that makes me say the Twins should not go after AJ Pierzynski. It's not his success or performance earlier in his career. He has been on very good, winning teams.

    He is going to want a multi-year contract, and I don't think that makes a lot of sense for a 37 year old catcher when you've got a 25 year old catcher who is nearly ready.

    It's also simply about performance. Frankly, Pierzynski was not very good in 2013 with the Texas Rangers. He hit .272, but he got on base just 29.7% of the time! Yes, he had 17 home runs for the Rangers, but do we actually expect him to hit for any power as a left-hander at Target Field? I mean, I would anticipate him hitting about .265/.290/.350 (.640) as a Twin.

    Defensively, Parker tweeted earlier today that he was worth -11.4 RAA (or Runs Above Average) due to framing in 2013. That's pretty bad. He also threw out just 26% of would-be base stealers in 2013. He hasn't topped 30% in any season since the 32% he threw out for the Twins in 2002.

    So to summarize...

    AJ Pierzynski is going to be a 37 year old catcher, is looking for a multi-year contract at a starter's wage, likely $7 to $9 million per year, who no longer has much ability to hit and is apparently allergic to walking and doesn't do a very effective job defensively.

    Don't get me wrong. If he is willing to come here for one year and $5-6 million, I'm fine with that. I won't write a scathing article or anything.

    There are other options. If the Twins choose to go big, they could sign Jarrod Saltalamacchia for three or four years. He's nine years younger than Pierzynski and still has some upside. JP Arencibia was terrible with the Blue Jays, but now that Toronto decided to sign Dionner Navarro for the next two years, Arencibia will likely be non-tendered. Ryan Hanigan is said to be available. And, there are any number of veteran, backup catchers available.

    So yes, it was a relief to hear that the Twins are likely out of the AJ Pierzynski sweepstakes, but until he signs elsewhere, I will remain a little nervous.

    So what do you think? Should AJ Pierzynski be a priority for the Minnesota Twins this offseason?
    Comments 29 Comments
    1. Madre Dos's Avatar
      Madre Dos -
      I don't think we need to bring AJ in. I say give it to Josmil... but I wouldn't be a little bit prejudice, would I?
    1. Lonestar's Avatar
      Lonestar -
      I like the idea of Ryan Hanigan. His BABIP was terrible in 2013 but I think he would match AJ's offense next year when adjusted. He gets on base and plays much better defense. He would cost less in terms of money (but that would only save the Pohlad's money). He would be a better mentor for Pinto.

      So what would it take to trade? Would Ryan Pressley and/or Vance Worley get the deal done?
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I was just warming up to A.J. again, Seth, and you successfully ruined it. I actually thank you for that.
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      JP Arencibia was (according to mlbtraderumors) not tendered. I think he might be a better option and cheap. If he does not work out, not much of a loss.
    1. DocBauer's Avatar
      DocBauer -
      Seth, I love you man and agree with almost everything you say/write. Great minds? Lol

      And I can't dismiss your arguments presented here. I too have been a bit torn about our C situation for next season. But I can debate your arguments, I believe.

      First, without a crystal ball, I believe most of us are in agreement the Twins need to make some move to shore up the C position. But I don't believe that is an inditement as to Pintos talent or potential. Just a very real observation he isn't the second coming of Mauer, and has limited time at AAA or the MLB level.

      And I don't believe signing Salt is a negative either. How can having an experienced and solid offensive C and another even younger and talented C working with him be a bad thing? As I have stated before, depth of talent is a good thing!

      But as you yourself pointed out, AJ has proven to be durable and generally very productive. While his HR totals might slide playing half his games in TF, he would still be a vast improvement over most C's, would provide a nice compliment to Pinto, and would provide some real experience for Pinto as well as the staff.

      And while I love the "Twins Way" of doing things, we've lost some of that. And I think we've lost a little spark and fire as well. I think AJ would provide at leas a little of all the things I've commented on here.

      Now, in an ideal world, Molina would find the fountain of youth for a year or two and be my very first choice, I have to believe that short of signing Salt, AJ would be a great second choice, pending financial details.
    1. Sleestax's Avatar
      Sleestax -
      I'm with the "let's not sign AJ" crew on this. I actually like the guy...a winner..and I like that he bugs people too. I may agree with the guy who mentioned Arencibia..at least for a year. He is in his prime and hits Homers. His average stinks to holy hell but that is something that generally improves at his age. I dont know...but I am not comfy at all with a Pinto/Hermanson depth at Catcher! Oh alas! I just checked and found both Pinto and Arencibia are right handers!! Ten to One we draft that Catcher kid out of H.S. in the first round!
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      Should the Twins be interested in AJ? In a word, no.

      Pierzynski gets props for handling pitchers, but so many of his 2013 numbers make AJ seem like a rich man's Ryan Doumit. Is it worth anywhere near the $7.5 million he received last year to repeat the following numbers?

      OBP: Doumit, .314; AJ, .297
      HR: Doumit, 14 (in 485 at bats, 6 at Target Field) AJ, 17 (in 529 at bats, 10 at Arlington)
      RAA: Doumit, -13; AJ, -11.4
      WAR: Doumit, 0.6; AJ, 1.6
      %CS: Doumit, 20%; AJ, 33%

      Sign AJ? I just don't see the upside. I'd prefer to see Terry Steinbach coach Josmil Pinto and company into a better future for Twins backstops.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      AJ is a perfectly good sign for the team. we can sign him for 1 or 2 years as he can transition to the backup Catcher the 2nd year if his offense falls too much. Yes there are other options so signing one with offensive potential is fine too. So is trading for one. AJ is 2nd on my list behind Salty. So if the Twins are going to go the free agent route you cant go wrong with the devil you had. The contract will be short enough not to be too much of an albatross either.
    1. TL's Avatar
      TL -
      I would make a push for Salty. Ideally he is a 1/2 year to 1 1/2 year stop gap to Pinto, similar to AJ. But the difference is that when Pinto is ready to take over full time Salty will likely have good trade value and, if pinto isn't ready, we still have Salty. I'd like to see the Twins spend to their stated budget each year even if players aren't in their long term plans because guys like Salty can be flipped for prospects as opposed to pocketing that extra money (unless, of course, they rollover that cash into the next year to sign a top tier free agent, but that doesn't seem likely).
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by DocBauer View Post
      But as you yourself pointed out, AJ has proven to be durable and generally very productive. While his HR totals might slide playing half his games in TF, he would still be a vast improvement over most C's, would provide a nice compliment to Pinto, and would provide some real experience for Pinto as well as the staff.
      Actually, he probably wouldn't be better than your average catcher in Target Field.

      1. He's 37 years old and in a decline phase.

      2. His OPS+ in Texas was just 94.

      3. His OBP was just .297, which makes that OPS+ look even worse.

      4. Target Field crushes players with his profile, especially ones on the decline. Look at this spray chart.

      Attachment 6109

      Chances are we'd be looking at a guy who is on the decline, well past the age of efficacy for most catchers, coming off a 94 OPS+ season with an OBP under .300, and moving into a park that kills players with his profile.

      Oh, and he's pretty lousy defensively as well.

      The more I look into it, the more I'd take just about anybody over AJ Pierzysnki.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Appears we can now close this thread out. AJ to the Red Sox.

      Saltalamacchia up next?
    1. BigTrane's Avatar
      BigTrane -
      Ok, I'll take the bait. I'm new around here but have been vocal about AJ, so I'll step up to the plate. Have to take Seth at his word that he doesn't have a dislike for AJ on a personality basis. The "Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em AJ" photo is purely coincidence...?

      Sure, AJ is 37, but as you yourself point out, he's durable. Always has been. I think we're all excited about Young Pinto, and love his pop. How do we feel about bringing back 'Pops', right? Yes, AJ is the Anti-Stargell, too. He is the Devil we know.

      As for AJ's OBP, in his 16 seasons, he's been .300+ for all of them- except '13, when he barely missed.
      Salty? In the last 5 seasons, he's been .300+ twice, with his best @ .360 in '10. Two out of five ain't bad, I suppose.

      What I don't get is that if Pinto is the guy to groom (hence the need for the 'Vet Presence' in the first place), then why go with Salty for 3 or 4? AJ for 2 makes more sense.

      As for the market for catchers, I'd call it thin, and would love to see a list of all those available Cs- then we can compare. Arenciba was non-tendered, and you're right- he was absolutely awful in '13. I'm struggling to see his upside, other than the fact that he's young.

      But then, so is Pinto...

      Direct answer to the last question: in a thin catcher market, *not* pursuing 1 of the 2 quality FAs (yep, Salty's the other) would be self-defeating by definition. All your eggs in one basket. How does that make sense?
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      I love that picture, btw

      My huge thanks to Boston.
    1. Marta Shearing's Avatar
      Marta Shearing -
      I dont want salty. Waste of money. Pinto's the man. Im fine with Pinto for 122 games, Hermann/Doumit can split the other 40.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Have to take Seth at his word that he doesn't have a dislike for AJ on a personality basis. The "Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em AJ" photo is purely coincidence...?
      I just think the photo is funny! I am not a fan of Pierzynski, admittedly, but I have a ton of respect for him. For me, it's the age (which leads to durability questions) which makes him OK as a backup, but he's not going to get backup money. he's not very good offensively or defensively at this point either.

      What I don't get is that if Pinto is the guy to groom (hence the need for the 'Vet Presence' in the first place), then why go with Salty for 3 or 4? AJ for 2 makes more sense.
      Completely agree... and tha'ts why I haven't been a big proponent of bringing him in either. He's younger, but more years and more expensive, so I'm not sure that I think that's a great expenditure. I don't think Arencibia is very good either, but he makes more sense as a role player.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I'd probably go after Arancebia if he was in fact non-tendered as someone said. Perhaps I just remember him being a 1 man wrecking crew against the Twins a few years back on opening night, but he is still young an if I remember correctly was a decent though of prospect.... It strikes me a as a "worst case decent backup" option and a best case "suddenly you have a guy you can trade".
    1. BigTrane's Avatar
      BigTrane -
      Well, AJ just signed with Boston, so thread: dead.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Actually, he probably wouldn't be better than your average catcher in Target Field.

      1. He's 37 years old and in a decline phase.

      2. His OPS+ in Texas was just 94.

      3. His OBP was just .297, which makes that OPS+ look even worse.

      4. Target Field crushes players with his profile, especially ones on the decline. Look at this spray chart.

      Attachment 6109

      Chances are we'd be looking at a guy who is on the decline, well past the age of efficacy for most catchers, coming off a 94 OPS+ season with an OBP under .300, and moving into a park that kills players with his profile.

      Oh, and he's pretty lousy defensively as well.

      The more I look into it, the more I'd take just about anybody over AJ Pierzysnki.
      Considering all this, what was Boston thinking?
    1. DJL44's Avatar
      DJL44 -
      Pierzynski's bat plays better at Fenway than in MN. I love that the Red Sox are bowing out on Saltalamacchia. If the Twins don't get Saltalamacchia then I like John Buck.
    1. Cris E's Avatar
      Cris E -
      I wasn't high on AJ because I don't think he's ready to sit down and watch a younger player take his innings, and particularly one who is going to have growing pains and go through stretches where AJ is clearly the better player. Once AJ accepts that he's not a starter anymore I think he'd be a decent guy to have in the mentor role and resident redass, but 2014 is not the year and parking him on the bench could lead to corrosion and failure.
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