Though many Texas Rangers fans may already despise him, A.J. Pierzynski is going to be a member of the Texas Rangers in 2013. The free agent catcher agreed to terms with the Rangers on a one-year, $7.5 million dollar deal on Thursday, filling the void left by Mike Napoli.
Unlike Napoli, Pierzynski is a lefthanded -- which is certainly part of Pierzynski's allure. Texas' lineup currently features a trio of right-handed power bats in Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler -- and potentially Michael Olt if he sees regular playing time.
Pierzynski's presence helps balance Texas' lineup out, and certainly gives the Rangers an actual starting catcher -- something that the team could not say about Geovany Soto, Eli Whiteside or Luis Martinez.
Still, there are plenty of concerns regarding Pierzynski. His reputation around the league isn't too great to say the least, and he seems to rub fans the wrong way. In fact, Pierzynski actually seems to embrace the fact that he's thought of as a villain, and told Sports Illustrated that he and his teammates embrace the boos that he receives.
Pierzynski was even voted the most hated player in Major League Baseball by his baseball peers. Ouch.
As annoying as Pierzynski might be to watch, and as annoying as he is to listen to when he's doing studio work during the MLB playoffs (something Rangers fans really hope he's not doing next year), he's still a stranger to almost everybody reading this column. I don't know Pierzynski, and the chances are exceptionally high that you don't know him either. I have no idea what type of a guy he is, and until something comes out that he's done horrible, I'm going to assume that he's a decent guy -- and you probably should, too.
With that said, there are legitimate baseball reasons to question Pierzynski's arrival in Arlington.
Yes, Pierzynski is coming off of a career year. Last year, he hit .278/.326/.501 with 27 home runs -- totals that are unlikely to be matched in 2013. In 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined, Pierzynski hit just 30 home runs, so it's certainly reasonable to expect Pierzynski's power numbers to regress -- and potentially significantly. Playing half his home games in Texas will still counteract some of the expected regression, but his home run total will almost certainly be lower than 27 next year.
Pierzynski isn't a patient hitter, either. In fact, he makes Vladimir Guerrero look patient In the last three seasons, Pierzynski walked just 66 times -- including 2010, when he drew just 15 (!) walks. Consequently, Pierzynski's OBP hovers around the .320 mark, and needless to say, that's nothing to write home about.
Further, Pierzynski is old -- he'll turn 37 on Dec. 30. With another year of catching under his belt, there's no reason to expect Pierzynski will actually improve on his 2012 numbers.
But that's perfectly OK. Jon Daniels and the Rangers aren't paying him to be better than he was in 2012. A one-year, $7.5 million dollar deal for a catcher that could be anywhere between a 1.5-3 WAR catcher is a risk certainly worth taking.
No, he's not awesome, and no, he's not going to replace Josh Hamilton, and no, he's not even going to be as valuable offensively as Napoli, but Pierzynski does provide the Rangers stability behind the plate, and gives Texas somewhat of a power threat from the left side of the plate.
At the least, the Rangers have plugged a hole in their 2013 lineup. Texas' offseason is still a work in progress, but picking up a catcher was a necessity. If you dislike Pierzynski, that's fine -- but realize that signing him was a necessary evil if the Rangers are to contend for a World Series title in 2013.