Let’s take ourselves back to December. The Boston Red Sox are just coming off their third World Series title in the last decade. All is good in the nation.
Free agency is opening up, and the Red Sox need a catcher. Jarrod Saltalamacchia — the team’s starting catcher in 2013 — has left for the Miami Marlins for the years and money Ben Cherington wasn’t willing to give the backstop. There are two blue-chip prospects in the organization in Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart who aren’t quite major league ready.
That’s where A.J. Pierzynski comes into the picture. A veteran catcher with a great deal of experience, he was the perfect piece for the Red Sox’ 2014 plans. A catcher who can hit while playing good enough defense and handling the staff, Pierzynski and his one-year, $8.25 million deal looked like a great fit. The contract was low-risk, high-reward and one the Sox could get out from under easily if it didn’t work out. He was a player who could be the bridge to Vazquez or Swihart.
The reward gave the Red Sox a catcher with a good bat and an adequate glove. Like Saltalamacchia, the bat would be a critical piece of the offense, even if the glove was a liability at times.
Unfortunately, the reward never came. In fact, Pierzynski’s time in Boston went about as well as that of Javy Lopez in 2006.
But that’s not to say it was a bad move by Cherington. Revisionist history says so, but in December the Sox had a need and Pierzynski was that piece to the puzzle.
The problem was the Red Sox wound up not being competitive. Pierzynski hasn’t hit with the exception of a strong month of May, when he hit .300 (27-for-90) in 23 games. He’s had issues with starting pitchers while being brutal defensively.
Much of the spotlight on Pierzynski has to do with the fact the team is in last place in the AL East. Had they been in second or third and in the thick of the Wild Card race, the problems Pierzynski has had aren’t as magnified. But welcome to Boston.
It probably doesn’t help that Pierzynski is one of the most polarizing figures in baseball as well.
But just like bringing in Pierzynski was a good move at the time given the circumstances the Red Sox were in, cutting ties on Wednesday afternoon was just as good a call, like the great Ryan Gaydos mentioned Wednesday in the wake of Cherington designating the 37-year-old for assignment.
The Red Sox are out of contention every way that isn’t mathematical. Vazquez is major league-ready and should be broken into the bigs, getting him ready to go for 2015. Meanwhile, Pierzynski can help out a team in World Series contention.
Had the Red Sox been in contention, Pierzynski would still be on this team.
The signing was never bad; the circumstances just happened to change.