Five reasons why Pierzynski won't return to the White Sox

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Five reasons why Pierzynski won't return to the White Sox

Nothing is final at such an early juncture in the offseason, but it appears A.J. Pierzynski will play for another team next season.

The free agent-catcher -- an eight-year White Sox veteran -- has indicated a strong desire to return to the South Side in 2013. The franchise has also reciprocated the sentiment: general manager Rick Hahn wants to retain the clubs only World Series-winning catcher in the past 88 seasons.

But even though both sides have good intentions, several mitigating factors could combine to interfere with a reunion. Heres a look at those five reasons:

1 -- Limited payroll

The White Sox dont have unlimited resources. With a payroll expected to be in the 97-100 million range, Hahns hands are hardly tied. But the team has already committed 89.25 million for nine players and several under contract -- Alejandro De Aza, Gordon Beckham and Dayan Viciedo -- could earn another 7 million after arbitration and raises. At the minimum, the teams other 13 players on the 25-man roster would cost 6.5 million, which leaves little room for another expensive player.

2 -- Raise due

Pierzynski earned 6 million in 2012 in the final season of a two-year, 8-million deal he signed before 2011. He also he hit 27 home runs and drove in 77 RBIs, career-high figures. With a lack of options on the free-agent market behind the plate -- a premium position -- Pierzynski is due a significant raise. After he cut a deal to return in 2011, and as this figures to be his last big money contract, the 35-year-old wants a fair deal, which will be costly. On Saturday, Boston gave 35-year-old David Ross, a career backup catcher, a two-year deal for 6.2 million.

3 -- Viable replacement

With an average of 133 12 games played the past eight seasons, Pierzynski is a proven, durable commodity behind the dish. His willingness to play through injury and ability to speak his mind have value in the clubhouse that cannot be measured.

But the White Sox believe they can ably replace Pierzynski with Tyler Flowers. Though Flowers, who turns 27 in January, has played only 108 games in the major leagues, the team is high on his receiving ability, arm and believes he is capable of hitting 15-20 home runs -- all at or just above the major-league minimum.

4 -- Priority

Pierzynski played a significant role last season for a team that was in the race for the American League Central title until the final two games of the season. He won the Silver Slugger award earlier this week for his offensive performance. But catcher isnt the only position where the White Sox have an opening this season and their need at third base is much greater because they have Flowers. With Brent Morels health still in question and the team not in favor of Dayan Viciedos return to the hot corner, the White Sox will likely need to bring in a free agent -- perhaps Kevin Youkilis -- or acquire a player through trade before they worry about their catching situation.

5 -- Timing

Pierzynski has to be viewed as the top option behind the plate along with the Texas Rangers Mike Napoli. The rest of the free-agent class offers few starters and none with the offensive abilities of Pierzynski. What that means is Pierzynski wont have to wait around for a catching market to be established. Though it is early in the offseason, Pierzynski should receive strong interest and could be signed before the White Sox have an opportunity to resolve the hole at third base.

As Hahn said earlier this month, nothing is final when it comes to a teams own free agents. Sentimentality can factor in as well and either party could potentially bend to bring Pierzynski back to the South Side. White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf made sure such a reunion happened in 2011 when he got involved at the last minute, sources have confirmed. But it will likely take another such intervention or Pierzynski again agreeing to take less for him to call 35th Street his baseball home once again.

Preview: White Sox host Rays in series opener tonight on CSN+

Preview: White Sox host Rays in series opener tonight on CSN+

 

The White Sox take on the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday, and you can catch all the action on CSN+. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Tonight’s starting pitching matchup: James Shields (3-11, 7.11 ERA) vs. Drew Smyly (7-11, 4.86 ERA)

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White Sox grieve Jose Fernandez's death along with rest of MLB

White Sox grieve Jose Fernandez's death along with rest of MLB

CLEVELAND -- Whether they knew him or not, the overwhelming sentiment throughout the White Sox clubhouse on Sunday is that baseball was robbed of one of its most likeable players when Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was tragically killed in a boating accident.

Known for his vivid celebrations on the field and his wide, endless smile, Fernandez made a strong impression, whether with his skillset or infinite love of the game. White Sox players had their eyes fixed on several televisions littered throughout the visiting clubhouse at Progressive Field on Sunday during a morning press conference confirming the death of Fernandez, 24, and two others.

White Sox reliever Dan Jennings played with Fernandez for two seasons. Though he enjoyed a 3-0 White Sox win over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday, Jennings said his happiness was muted as he mulled the death of Fernandez, who was killed when the boat he was on slammed into a jetty in Miami Beach, Fla.

“He seemed invincible is what it was,” Jennings said. “A lot of guys know what I mean when I say he was invincible on the mound. There were days he was unstoppable, and that’s how you viewed him is invincible. It’s too hard to really put into words what he meant to the game and what he meant to Miami.”

“I just hope to love the game as much as he does some day. It’s tough to do, but he did. He had fun, and he loved the game more than anything.”

Todd Frazier remembers how approachable he found Fernandez in their limited interactions. The two met in the outfield one day after they faced each other for the first time and joked around.

“I was like, ‘Dog, you don’t throw me any fastballs,’ ” Frazier said. “He was like, “Why would I throw you fastballs?’ And we just started laughing.

“That’s the kind of guy he was. You could come up and talk to him. He had an infectious smile and just had a love for the game that I hope every ballplayer could have. It’s a terrible, terrible day.”

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Fernandez’s death reminded him of the March 22, 1993 accident that took the lives of Indians pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews. Only pitcher Bob Ojeda survived that crash and Ventura remembers the shockwaves it sent through clubhouses throughout baseball.

“I can still remember … just how sad that was,” Ventura said. “You don’t have to know them personally. But they’re within their group, and it breaks everybody up. It really does.”

White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon didn’t have a chance to meet Fernandez, a pitcher he admired for his competitive style and bulldog mentality. But another reason Rodon looked up to Fernandez is for the way he seemed to play the game with such joy. Marlins manager Don Mattingly said during a press conference Sunday that Fernandez enjoyed the game like a Little Leaguer does.

Rodon recently spoke about rediscovering his own joy of baseball. Naturally, Rodon’s thoughts drifted toward Fernandez when he took the mound on Sunday.

“You could tell,” Rodon said. “We had a beautiful day to come out and play and sad to say that one person is never going to get to play again. He’ll be very missed. You can’t take these days for granted. Just hope you guys go home today and tell the people you love, you love them. Losing a person like that is hard.”