Hi All! Happy Holidays to you and yours!
Many White Sox fans are likely shaking their heads these days. Under the "new" management of Rick Hahn, the team has decided to re-sign injury-prone Jake Peavy. Management picked up the option on enigmatic right-hander Gavin Floyd. The Sox also signed versatile infielder Jeff Keppinger to a team-friendly contract, letting the over-priced Kevin Youkilis walk away to sign with the dreaded Yankees.
Many thought the next domino to fall into place would be catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Pierzynski, a team leader and one of the last remaining pieces of the 2005 World Champions (never gets old!), had his best offensive season last year, hitting 27 home runs and shattering his previous high of 18. The White Sox are looking for a left-handed bat. Many thought it was a matter of time before A.J. re-upped with the Sox and came back to the fold. And then last night he signed a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers. For $7.5 million...a meager salary for an established veteran and winner. The voices will be loud in the local media this holiday season, with many callers, bloggers and letter-writers pining for A.J., and blasting the White Sox for being cheap.
I won't do any of this. Complain if you'd like. The White Sox don't need him.This is not about money. It is about giving a better catcher a real opportunity. It is time to see if Tyler Flowers can play every day. Quietly, many of the White Sox hurlers prefer to throw to Tyler Flowers. They feel he calls a better game, is less stubborn than his predecessor in pitch selection, and is better defensively. It should be clear to serious fans that A.J. has lost ability behind home plate. Never a defensive stalwart, he has struggled mightily the last two seasons. His pitch-selection has been questionable at crucial times. His ability to manuever and block pitches has decreased. He has never been particularly good at throwing out base stealers. He has been more of a glorified designated hitter the last two years, who also occupies the space behind home plate.
At 35, he had a career year. Yet, did any other GM step up to offer him a multiyear deal? No. It's too risky. The facts are, there are thousands of miles on those legs, and as durable as he has been, he could hit the wall anytime. And when he does, it may be really ugly.
It is possible that Tyler Flowers, who does strike out too often, could hit more home runs than A.J. this year. It could happen if A.J.'s power surge was a mirage in a contract year. Flowers is capable of hitting 15 home runs with an everyday job. Here's hoping he will make more contact with an increase in playing time. If Flowers does in fact play better defense, and he hits those home runs, it could very well be a wash. Or, it could even be better for the Sox.
Think with me a moment before you attack me. What if with the savings on A.J. ($7.5 million), and trading a guy like Dayan Viciedo (said to be about $3 million), you could land a left-handed bat like Michael Bourn? Or, say, Andre Ethier? Maybe Jacoby Ellsbury? Pure speculation here, but those would be upgrades. The Sox have a small surplus of available starting pitching. Moving Gavin Floyd in the right deal would save $9.5 million. Money could be freed up in this way, creatively, to make a difference. It could get interesting.
Signing Keppinger was a nice and underrated move. He fits nicely into the #2 spot in the order, knows how to handle the bat, rarely strikes out, and comes in for three years @ $12 million. If you're keeping track, Youkilis signed with the Yankees for that amount. For one year. Nice move, Rick Hahn. Prudent.
It is difficult to move on when a love affair has ended. A.J. was my favorite player on the Sox for the last eight years. My kids love the guy, how he plays, his work ethic. I will never forget that he helped bring me my happiest moment, other than the birth of my kids, when he and the White Sox won the World Series in 2005 (never gets old). But it's time for his next chapter, and it is time for Rick Hahn and the White Sox to start a new page. Best of luck to A.J. and the Rangers next year...except when they play the Sox. I for one will give him a standing ovation when I see him step to the plate at the Cell the first time in a foreign uniform.