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.