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White Sox Fri Dec 21 2012

Pierzynski Departure Puts White Sox In Tough Position

Sox_200.pngAnother core member of the 2012 White Sox is gone. Catcher AJ Pierzynski signed with Texas on Thursday night on a one-year deal. Terms are not yet reported.

The Sox and new general manager Rick Hahn mulled the idea of re-signing Pierzynski this winter, but as the days kept counting and it became late December, I can't say I was totally surprised that Pierzynski split. He and the Sox must have been far apart on a deal, and the Rangers, who lost two of their best bats (Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli), swooped in.

Chicago loses Pierzynski, who hit a career-high 27 home runs last season (by far the most in his career) and high strong marks in RBIs (77) and OPS (.827). Pierzynski's hot streak in July and August carried the team and he posted a solid WAR (2.6).

Pierzynski had a very good year - and he was rewarded with a Silver Slugger award. But the Sox were undoubtedly concerned with his age (he will turn 36 in under two weeks) and his fair-to-middling defense (only threw out 26% of base-stealers and a microscopic 0.2 defensive WAR).

Here's the problem, though: by losing Pierzynski and seemingly avoiding late career dip in production or post-contract year swoon, a different problem arises.

As of now, Chicago has Tyler Flowers as a catcher. In a relatively small sample size, the soon-to-be 27-year old doesn't have awesome statistics. If you take his numbers from the last two years and project them over the course of a full season (162 games), Flowers has 22 home runs, a .211/.302/.411 line, and a whopping 170 strikeouts to 47 walks.

Admittedly, this is an inexact science for sure, yet we still get a sense of what Flowers will probably be - a catcher with solid power numbers who will strike out a lot and struggle to reach base consistently. One bright spot is that he is actually decent defensively with a 0.7 defensive WAR (49 games) and a 33% caught stealing percentage in 2012.

Chicago was stuck in a tough spot this winter. In a vacuum, letting Pierzynski walk is a defensible move. Generally, teams shy away from potentially overpaying an aging vet who had a wonderful contract year. Given the situation, though, re-signing him for one year wouldn't have been that risky, considering the available options the team has at the position.

SImply put, Pierzynski will be a better player than Flowers in 2013; why not bring him back if you're re-signing Jake Peavy and not trading other veterans like Paul Konerko and Alex Rios? The worst thing the Sox could do is put themselves in the middle - not making an effort to compete in 2013, yet not fully committing to rebuilding.

Unless Hahn has some moves up his sleeves, which looks unlikely, not bringing back Pierzynski, especially for one year, is a mistake.

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