The Red Sox have designated A.J. Pierzynski for assignment, and will call Christian Vazquez up to take over behind the plate.
In a word: finally!
Pierzynski was very much the last resort for a Red Sox team that missed a few times on the catching market this past offseason. Their top targets seemed to be Carlos Ruiz and Brian McCann, unwilling to get locked in with Jarrod Saltalamacchia after a postseason which highlighted his defensive deficiencies. The Phillies, however, were willing to go to three years for the aged Ruiz, and Boston's attempt to lure McCann with more dollars and fewer years was blown away by the Yankees' eventual five-year, $85 million contract with a vesting option to boot.
That left the Red Sox with A.J. Pierzynski. The hope was that the controversial backstop would provide enough offense to make up for his deficiencies elsewhere. It was a bit of a desperate hope given that he had only provided league average offense once in the past ten years--a 2012 season that had seen him club 27 homers for the White Sox--but there were few other options, and the Red Sox determined that dropping $8.25 million on one year of A.J. Pierzynski was preferable to getting hooked into a three-year deal for a player they really didn't much want.
Of course, Pierzynski hasn't lived up to those hopes at all. Forget about a return to 2012 form, Pierzynski hasn't even managed to produce at the level he has over the last 10 years. A .254/.286/.348 batting line made all the worse by his seeming determination to never make opposing pitchers work just isn't going to cut it for a player whose calling card is supposed to be the bat.
With Boston's hopes of contention now dead and buried, one wonders how much the timing of this move was determined by the performance of Pierzynski's replacement in Christian Vazquez. Vazquez has always been known as a defense-first catcher himself, but he's still seen some reasonable success with the bat since hitting .283/.358/.505 back in 2011 with Single-A Greenville.
2014, however, had seen him get off to a fairly slow start in his first season in Triple-A, with his struggles culminating in a terrible month of May that saw Vazquez hit just .237/.284/.263. June, however, saw a total turnaround, with Vazquez managing an .848 OPS, and so far a .381 OBP in July. One wonders if the Red Sox were just waiting for him to establish some momentum and confidence at the plate before pulling the trigger.
Vazquez will start behind the plate, batting ninth Wednesday night against the White Sox.