The Red Sox are coming off of a sweep by the hands of the Chicago Cubs to start a crucial home stand for determining how the rest of the season plays out. It was such a devastatingly brutal series that many have started to throw around phrases like "rock bottom." '
In short, it told us that these Red Sox probably aren't going to turn it around and become serious contenders at any point in 2014. While it's still not mathematically impossible, it's close to becoming theoretically impossible. As this realization starts to hit the team and the front office, the next phase will be shopping around the excess veterans who won't be helping beyond this year. That list includes many names - most of whom won't garner much of a return, but can still be dealt - including one A.J. Pierzynski. It seems like every Red Sox fan is in the biggest hurry to rid themselves of the 36-year-old catcher. And it makes sense for Boston to look towards dealing him, as they have a crop of young catchers ready to move up to the next level. The only problem is: are there any real contenders who would consider trading for the veteran?`
When we talk about A.J. Pierzynski, we're not talking about some All-Star who any contending team would jump at the opportunity to grab, like a Koji Uehara or a Jon Lester. In 263 plate appearances this season, the Red Sox backstop has been wildly inconsistent, and has slashed .257/.290/.355, giving him a career-worst 72 wRC+. Walks have been just as rare for him this year as ever, with his walk-rate standing a shade over three percent, even while striking out a bit more often than normal. What's really hurting him has been a complete lack of power. Both his .355 slugging percentage and his .098 isolated power would be career-lows over a full season. In addition to the poor offense, Pierzynski is also viewed as a bad defensive catcher, and there have been multiple reports of him causing problems in the various locker rooms he's been in throughout his career. So, what teams would be lining up for the opportunity to trade for all of that?
via Bob DeChiara- USA TODAY Sports
via Bob DeChiara- USA TODAY Sports
The first and most obvious option actually lies in the American League East, in Baltimore. The Orioles find themselves in the midst of a hot streak that has put them in a tie atop the division with the Blue Jays. They didn't have a need for a catcher until their starter Matt Wieters was hurt, and subsequently underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery. Since the injury to their starter, they have relied on Nick Hundley and Caleb Joseph, neither of whom have inspired much confidence. Both Hundley and Joseph profile as fine backup catchers, but neither is the type of guy a contender wants behind the plate every day. Since Pierzynski won't cost much in terms in prospects, it's not hard to see the Orioles striking a deal, even within their own division.
The Blue Jays, who as mentioned above are tied atop the division, have also been rumored as potential suitors for a starting catcher. However, while their catching has been rough this season, it's not clear Pierzynski is the answer they'd be looking for. Dioner Navarro has been their starting catcher, and he's actually been better than Boston's in 2014. Navarro has drawn more walks, struck out less, and hit for marginally more power, all while playing vastly superior defense. It's fair to expect Pierzynski to improve from here, but it wouldn't make much sense for the Blue Jays to waste their time by trading for a catcher who, at best, is the same talent level as their current starter.
Another team who has been rumored to be seeking out help behind the dish is Boston's old favorite trade partner, the Dodgers. Los Angeles recently overtook the Giants for first place in the National League West, and have some massive expectations for the rest of the season. Luckily for them, they have the payroll to take on any talent that can help them win. The question, though, is whether or not A.J. Pierzynski is that guy. While their overall production from the catcher position has been weak, much of that is because their starter A.J. Ellis missed a good chunk of time in the beginning of the season. He's now returned, and like Navarro, seems like a solid upgrade over the Red Sox' catcher. Ellis is a guy who hits for minimal power, but he's an on-base machine and plays outstanding defense. Considering the rest of Los Angeles' lineup, that kind of profile seems like a better fit for what Pierzynski can offer. It's possible they'd trade with Boston to get a new backup catcher, but it seems like a long shot at best.
The final possibility is likely another long shot, though it depends on the medical report from their now-injured starting catcher. The Braves have gotten a fantastic season at the dish from Evan Gattis after letting Brian McCann walk in the offseason. Unfortunately for the Braves, he was just diagnosed with a bulging disk, and it's unclear how long he'll be out for at this moment. For now, they are playing with veteran Gerald Laird, and rookie defensive-whiz Christian Bethancourt. This is a tandem that is good enough to get them through a short-term injury to their starter, but if it turns into a long-term thing, they could be a team to come out and trade for a most seasoned starter. As of right now, it looks like Gattis won't miss too significant of a chunk of the season, but you never know how back injuries will linger. Today, the Braves don't look like a contender for A.J. Pierzynski, but they could turn into one in a few weeks.
With the Red Sox looking like they are about to sell off many of their spare veteran parts, A.J. Pierzynski jumps to the head of the line of guys on their way out. The problem, though, is that there aren't too many contending teams who are looking for catching. Of the four teams mentioned above, three of them seem like teams with mild interest at best. If I was a betting man, my money would be on the Orioles eventually making a deal for the veteran catcher, but with so little competition on the market, I wouldn't expect the return to be very much at all.