The day after I write about the fog enveloping the free agent outlook of A.J. Pierzynski, the Texas Rangers made the first serious overture by meeting with Pierzynski on Tuesday night.
Bruce Levine broke the story, but Phil Rogers' account offers the most meat with two exciting possibilities:
According to sources, Pierzynski was told that he is being considered for a hybrid role of designated hitter/catcher, as the team promised playing time to Soto, who signed a one-year deal for $2.75 million.
Soto hit .196/.253/.338 over 47 games for the Rangers after the Cubs sent him to Texas at the trade deadline. Prior to the deal, he hit .199/.284/.347 for the Cubs. If Pierzynski didn't think a then-two-armed Toby Hall was worth diminished playing time behind the plate in 2007, it would be interesting to see how he'd handle deferring to a guy like Soto more than he's used to.
Then again, Pierzynski may want to heed the cautionary tale set forth by the last White Sox to scoff at a DH offer from Jon Daniels. For warnings from the future to the past must be taken in the past; today may change tomorrow but once today is gone, tomorrow can only look back in sorrow that the warning was ignored. Said warning as of now stamped 'not accepted' and stored away in the dead file in the recording office of The Retired Zone.
"Rick Hahn declined to discuss reports that the team has made an offer (reportedly one year, $4 million) to retain the 36-year-old Pierzynski."
If true, that offer is a bigger insult (to use the word loosely) than moving to DH to give Soto one last chance to prove he's not done, at least relative to his open-market value.
But the White Sox roster is not an open market, and Pierzynski's value to Rick Hahn is based mostly on the upgrade he would provide over the in-house solution, Tyler Flowers. This offer would basically say the Sox think the gap between Pierzynski and Flowers is smaller than one win.
I think Flowers' defense and power give him a pretty set floor, and I think his contact problems limit his upside. As unproven players go, I think he's pretty close to a constant. Or he's the constant compared to the wild variation in Pierzynski's game last year.
If you think Pierzynski is due to fall back to his pre-2012 offensive standards, that's an easy case to accept. If you think he can repeat his power-packed performance -- and I imagine Pierzynski would fall into this camp -- that valuation would be tough to swallow.
Of course, the Sox's first offer is going to be low no matter what, because they're negotiating against no other offers. If the Sox made that offer, though, I don't think they'd go much higher. This is what it looks like when the Sox have some leverage. They didn't have it the last time Pierzynski was a free agent because Flowers' prospect stock bottomed out. With Flowers a viable (not to be confused with enviable) alternative, the Sox are in position to play something closer to hardball.
Or that report could be a lie. Over at Baseball Nation, Jason Brannon summed up the folly of following the rumor mill too closely by highlighting what appears to be the foundation of a formidable Cubs rotation:
Either way, the ladies and gentlemen at Lone Star Ball are ... conflicted.