A.J. Pierzynski *Not* the Newest Addition to the Jays

(image courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times)

Update: I changed the title to include *Not* because recent reports have the White Sox resigning A.J. for a 2 year deal. Therefore, disregard the remainder of the article below. I still believe that he would have been a good addition for the Jays, but I can sympathize with A.J. who decided to remain where he is comfortable. Maybe the pressure the Jays put on the White Sox to move quickly forced them to come over the top with their offer. If that’s the case, Alex must be a little annoyed at this point, since the leak would essentially be what resulted in the White Sox retaining him.

A report by Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Time has the Jays “close to” signing A.J. Pierzynski. I know, I know, everyone wants to know why the Jays are signing A.J. or another catcher when they already have Jose Molina and J. P. Arencibia on the roster.

The same questions were raised last off-season when the Jays were signing the likes of Jose Molina and had been linked to Raul Chavez. The only answer I can come up with is the following: one of J. P. Arencibia or Jose Molina will be sent down to AAA. Molina would have to clear waivers to do so, making it a riskier move than sending J. P. down, but if the Jays are committed to the youth movement, they’ll want Arencibia’s bat in the lineup as often as possible. I say that they’ll have Jose Molina down in AAA to begin the season, and if Arencibia struggles the two will switch before the all-star break.

I’m not sure how much is being talked about in terms of money or years, but the White Sox are stating that they are concentrating on signing Paul Konerko now that they have the Adam Dunn deal (as stated in the same Cowley report as linked above). Just as the Jays jumped all over John Buck when he became available last off season, they seem intent on grabbing one of the more prominent catchers on the market this off season.

What would the Jays be getting?

A.J. is about as steady as it gets behind the plate. Before last season, he was as sure a bet to get between 12-20 HRs per season with 50-75 RBIs and a decent .260-.300 average as well. Like Molina, he excels as catching would be base stealers, nabbing enough to finish 3rd overall in 2009 with 30 caught and duplicating his effort in 2010 with 27 caught, finishing 4th overall. He’s got a ton of experience calling games, and more importantly has a ton of experience in the playoffs – or under pressure. His career batting average in the playoffs is .300 in 100 ABs and he holds a very healthy .372 OBP as well, showing just how pesky he is when the pressure mounts. His career fielding percentage – the same as in 2010 – is .995, so you can’t get much better defensively behind the plate.

It’s a good bet that the Jays would get a very similar performance offensively as he has offered the White Sox in recent years. Having said that, he could easily slip in a slightly above average season with the Jays “bang’em” batting coaches showing him the way, and could earn the Jays another John Buck style Type B FA draft pick for 2012 if that’s the case. That’s an added bonus you just can’t ignore if you’re Alex Anthopolous with a mighty scouting machine behind you.

The Cost?

Well, A.J. made $6.75 million in 2010 and saw his numbers dip quite a bit offensively, so a slight reduction in salary seems likely. It’s likely to be a deal between $5-$6.5 million per year, with the length likely to be 1 year with a mutual, team, or player option for a second year at a similar rate.

Thoughts on the possibility of adding AJ

When you’re facing the likes of the AL East beasts, you’ll take every opportunity you can to get better. AJ’s addition would vastly improve the depth at the catching position for the Jays and would go a long way to ensuring the Jays get similar – if not better – performances behind the plate than they had from John Buck with AJ on board. If it happens, I like the addition quite a bit, as I do believe Arencibia could learn a ton of defensive skills from both Jose Molina and AJ Pierzynski, wherever he plays in 2010.

Once again, this would be a big win move for Alex Anthopolous, who would be adding a veteran catching presence with more offensive ability than Jose Molina and that may end up adding yet another pick for the Jays to use should he walk after the 2011 season.

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Tags: A.J. Pierzynski Jose Molina JP Arencibia

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