A.J. Pierzynski has seen his share of the league, playing for six clubs across a 17-year career. While he only stayed in two cities for longer than a year, he’s also had a measure of success behind the plate. For that reason, among others, his recent change of scenery should reap benefits.
Shipping out of Boston
When Boston released the catcher on July 16, it was fairly clear the 37 year-old would get a shot to help out another team down the stretch. Some in the media have attributed his release in part to clubhouse issues, though that may not be the whole story.
It remains the Red Sox aren’t going anywhere this year, and they decided to part ways with Pierzynski. The man who takes his place, Christian Vazquez, is 23. It seems to make sense for the Sox to figure out what he can do in an everyday role while David Ross, also 37, spells him as the veteran backup. Pierzynski didn’t fit into the Red Sox’ plans, so they let him go, which turned out to be a good move for everyone involved.
A sensible signing
It’s a sensible move for the Cardinals. After losing Yadier Molina, St. Louis needed a presence behind the plate with experience as a starter, who could slot in every day (if necessary) to manage the catching duties and a core of young pitchers. Pierzynski provides that, at a low cost.
Tony Cruz, St. Louis’ other catcher, is batting .220. That’s another reason to add the veteran — a more reliable bat. Cruz is batting a painfully low .161 since July 10, so there are still questions as to his everyday ability. With Molina healthy, the Cardinals didn’t need Cruz to fill that role, but the problem surfaced when the best catcher in the league went down long-term.
St. Louis had no backup plan for Molina. And why would they? But Pierzynski is a serviceable replacement to a backup plan, with proven experience and potential to hit around .280.
A veteran catcher’s platform
St. Louis seems the best location from Pierzynski’s perspective as well, given his need to improve his stock. Despite a recent slide, the Cardinals are in contention for their division, providing an immediate incentive to put this year’s struggles in Boston behind him.
If Molina returns at the end of the year, Pierzynski could into a backup role which carries over somewhere else next year or, if he performs well in Molina’s absence, he has the opportunity to sign as a starter elsewhere in the offseason after a two month showcase.
Pierzynski collected three hits and an RBI in his first start for the Cards. It’s a good sign for the rest of his season. The Cardinals also picked him up at what seems to be the opportune time, as he’s hit .306 in his last 10 games (hitting 4 for 8 since joining his new team doesn’t hurt).
Making the right moves
This is the time of year moves for pieces can play a big role in determining who makes and misses the playoffs. Who picks up a veteran catcher with the ability to handle a staff could be the determinant in a division race. On the other hand, it could mean nothing if the wrong team signs him.
The recent transactions involving A.J. Pierzynski seem sensible for all parties — the player as well as his former and new teams — and it could help the Cardinals secure their playoff spot without star catcher Yadier Molina.
Not all moves need to be flashy. This one certainly wasn’t. But each move made has the potential to push a team in the right direction or to be a major setback. With the non-waiver deadline just a few days away, a number of moves of that nature could happen soon. For now, we’ll just have to wait.