Yesterday A.J. Pierzynski’s brief tenure with the Boston Red Sox came to an abrupt end. Red Sox fans collectively rejoiced Wednesday morning when they received word Pierzynski had been designated for assignment.
The surprising, yet deserving demotion, had two massive benefits. One, “clubhouse cancer” A.J. Pierzynski was finally off the struggling Boston squad. Secondly, and almost as important, Christian Vazquez, the young and talented catching prospect, would get his first taste of big-league action.
Love or hate him —and you probably aren’t his biggest fan — the Red Sox made the right move signing the veteran backstop in the offseason. You may be bewildered by that last statement seeing how it miserably concluded, but let’s think logically and unbiased towards this.
The Red Sox needed a one-year bridge for Vazquez and Blake Swihart. Re-signing “beloved” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a multi-year deal would block the two touted prospects for years. It’s also not as if “Salty” was great in his Red Sox career. He had one very good season, which, honestly, was highly BABIP-driven.
Other options on the market included Brian McCann and Carlos Ruiz. McCann signed a five-year, $85 million dollar deal with the New York Yankees in the winter. All that money invested has produced a paltry .230 batting average and .660 OPS. Ruiz, on the other hand has been decent with the Philadelphia Phillies this season. However, he, too, was seeking a long-term deal. If Boston signed him, Vazquez and Swihart would be blocked.
Another aspect that factored in to the decision was finding a platoon for David Ross. Given Ross is a right-handed hitter, Ben Cherington pursued a left-handed complement.
Dioner Navarro, some may argue, could have been the guy. The switch-hitter ended up signing with the division-adversary Toronto Blue Jays. Be cognizant, however, Navarro has churned just a .656 OPS off right-handed pitching in his career. It’s a substantial difference from his career .752 OPS against southpaws. So, a switch-hitter who doesn’t hit well against righties, would defeat the entire purpose of a platoon with Ross. He didn’t have the track record of Pierzynski, either. In 292 plate appearances this season, Navarro has compiled a .663 OPS.
Boston faced a unique situation regarding who’d be their catcher heading into the year, and Pierzynski was the only one to fit the criteria. He’s a left-handed bat, with a solid track record, and didn’t desire a long-term deal. They could have gone with Vazquez early, but Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. have shown it’s not always easy relying on rookies to succeed. Despite how it worked out, the Pierzynski-signing was sensible.