The Red Sox have designated AJ Pierzynski for assignment and naturally a lot of Rays fans are wondering if the Rays should sign the catcher to help make a playoff push.
While there is a case for adding Pierzynski, there really isn’t a good fit for either the Rays or for Pierzynski and he will likely end up elsewhere. But before we get to that, let’s look at the case for Piehead.
The case for signing Pierzynski
He will be cheap: Assuming Pierzynski clears waivers, the Red Sox will have to eat the remaining $3.5 million or so on his contract. So Pierzynski is going to get his money. It might take a little more than minimum salary to bring him in. But whatever the price, it should be reasonable and the Rays love reasonably priced players.
He is a classic buy-low player: The last two seasons Pierzynski hit .275 with a .773 OPS and averaged 22 home runs. Those numbers are way down this season and he is 37 years old. But there is potential to still be productive this year.
He has a chip on his shoulder: Pierzynski just did not mesh with his teammates in Boston and after he was cut, they ripped him anonymously. Their biggest complaint? He spent too much time on his phone. So why not join the Rays in the East and play against the Red Sox a few times the rest of the season?
Jose Molina: Molina can’t hit. He can’t block a pitch in the dirt. And let’s face it, at times it looks like Molina is hanging on to a career that probably should have ended last year. Pierzynski would be a huge upgrade in the eyes of many.
He bats left-handed: As a lefty bat, Pierzynski makes a more natural platoon with Ryan Hanigan, something the Rays have struggled with a bit this season.
He has a winning mentality: I hate AJ Pierzynski. I always have and I know many of you do also. But I have also freely admitted for a long time that he is the type of player that I would love if he ever played for the Rays. He stretches rules and plays dirty. But most of that is done in an effort to do whatever he can to win games.
But, here is the case against Pierzynski:
He has a chip on his shoulder: If he really wants to exact revenge on the Red Sox, it makes much more sense for Pierzynski to sign with the Orioles or the Blue Jays. Both teams could use a left-handed hitting catcher and both teams have a much better chance of making the playoffs.
Jose Molina: Let’s face it. The Rays love Molina and measure his value in ways that are not completely obvious when watching the team every night. At some point his offense may be a bigger negative than his defense is a positive. It is just not clear that we are there yet.
The Pitchers: The Rays’ strength is their pitching. Do the Rays really want to swap in a new catcher this deep into the season? There would be a learning curve that is normally achieved in spring training and the communication between the pitchers and Pierzynski would have some growing pains at a time when the Rays can’t make mistakes.
David DeJesus: One theory is the Rays could add Pierzynski as a third catcher and regular DH. But keep in mind the Rays have DeJesus and Wil Myers returning eventually and too many outfielders. The Rays are not going to demote Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Guyer has held his own with the others on the DL. Unless one or two of those outfielders are traded, there is no room at the DH Inn.
Joe Maddon: Joe Maddon has a way of getting the most out of players deemed to be malcontents. If Pierzynski wants to be a loner, that might be fine for Maddon. But it also seems to go against the “community” atmosphere Maddon has created, going as far as to ask specific teammates to embrace Fernando Rodney who had a similar reputation. Also, is catcher a position Maddon wants a loner? If there is one spot where the player really needs to embrace his teammates it is behind the plate. Maddon may not want that in his lineup or in his locker room.
So what will happen? Honestly, there were a lot more reasons to sign Piehead than I thought there would be when I first started outlining this post. But the biggest factor is that Pierzynski is probably going to get more attractive offers from teams that are more likely to make the playoffs. So even if the Rays want Pierzynski, they probably won’t get him.