A.J. 'literally one call away' from leaving


A.J. 'literally one call away' from leaving

Friday, Dec. 3, 2010
7:40 PM

By Jeremy Lynn

Six years ago, A.J. Pierzynski couldn't find a team after being released by the San Francisco Giants.

Now, he'll call Chicago home for at least a couple more seasons - his seventh and eighth on the South Side - after re-signing with the White Sox Friday for 8 million over two years.

"I'm ecstatic, I didn't really think it would work out," Pierzynski said. "I had called my mom and told her I was going to a different team, it was bittersweet. I'm happy a team wanted me as much as (another organization) did, but Rick Hahn called and it was an offer we were looking for."

While it's a happy day for Pierzynski and the White Sox, the veteran backstop was extremely close to adding "former" in front of his current employer.

"When I say we were close, we were literally one phone call away from being done," Pierzynski stated about the negotiation process Thursday night. "At the last second I got a call from Hahn, we were interested and it got done in about 15 minutes.

"I really, really thought it was over. It was hard for me to believe with all we'd been through in Chicago but it worked out and it feels right, which is all I can ask for as a player."

Pierzynski, who turns 34 on Dec. 30, struggled at the plate last season with his impending free agency on his mind, "I was trying to do too much - get five hits every at bat - to show everyone what I was capable of doing instead of just letting it happen."

Five hits surely wasn't happening, Pierzynski was having trouble getting even one in most game early on. He hit .247 in the first half of 2010 before getting hot in the season's final month to finish with a .270 batting average, down from .300 in 2009, with four less home runs (13 in '09 to nine in '10).

"It was my fault, but you live and you learn and I hope to grow from it," reflected Pierzynski on his early-season slump. "I tried too hard and pressed, and we got off to a bad start. You look up and you're hitting .180 in May and you start pressing. I'm going to try not to let it happen again."

Whether or not Pierzynski's hitting can rebound may not matter as much with Friday's signing of left-handed slugger Adam Dunn, a clear signal the team wants to win just as bad as he does.

"Aren't white Sox always in (win now) mode?" Pierzynski pondered. "One thing about the White Sox, they always want to win and it's a very attractive quality about this organization. They do whatever they can to win - signing free agents and making trades - whether it's Jerry (Reinsdorf), Kenny (Williams) or Ozzie (Guillen) they do everything they can to win. That's why I wanted to come back and be a part of it."

Part of that willingness to win included Williams' signing of Pierzynski before the 2005 season, a move that worked out pretty well for both sides, and could help provide another World Series championship.

"I know people say it all the time, but I had more lucrative offers out there," Pierzynski admitted. "Not to toot my own horn, but I took less money to come back, and if it helps the White Sox win and get better it'll be a great decision. I just want to win and any little thing we can do is great."

Pierzynski was specifically referring to the not-so-little act of him and Dunn deferring money to later years of their contracts to aid in the potential re-signing of Paul Konerko. While Pierzynski has no secret information about the future of his longtime teammate and "good friend," he hopes to see Konerko wearing black and white again next year.

"The one thing (the White Sox) have to do is bring Paul Konerko back. He should finish his career as a White Sox. He's done so much for the team and the community on and off the field, it would be unbelievable for me to take the field as a White Sox and not have Paul Konerko on the field with me.

"I'll do whatever I have to do to help being him back."

Whether or not the Sox's captain returns for 2011 and beyond, Pierzynski is happy with the current roster.

"We have strong guys and strong leadership at the top, it starts with Ozzie and works down," Pierzynski said. "Everyone talks about clubhouse this and clubhouse that... if we're winning, the clubhouse will be great, if we're losing it'll be bad."

For his part, Pierzynski wishes he could play "all 162 (games)," - and while knowing that's not possible - he remains happy with Guillen's willingness to run him out there as often as he can. "That's why I love playing for him.

"You all know I'm not a happy camper when I have to take days off, I'm pretty miserable."

With Pierzynski in place, a new source of power in the middle of the lineup and the potential return of Konerko, there may not be many unhappy days over the next two years for the South Sider's field general.

White Sox avoid arbitration with Todd Frazier, four pitchers

White Sox avoid arbitration with Todd Frazier, four pitchers

The White Sox agreed to one-year contracts with five players on Friday, including a $12-million deal for Todd Frazier.

Frazier established a franchise record for home runs by a third baseman in 2016 when he blasted 40 in his first season with the White Sox. A free agent after the 2017 season, Frazier hit .225/.302/.464 in 666 plate appearances, drove in a career high 98 runs and produced 2.4 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. 

Starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez is set to earn $5.9 million this season. The team also agreed to deals with relievers Dan Jennings ($1.4 million), Zach Putnam ($1.1175 million) and Jake Petricka ($825,000).

The White Sox acquired Frazier in a three-player trade from the Cincinnati Reds in December 2015. It's expected they would try to trade Frazier, who has hit 104 homers since 2014 and participated in the All-Star Game Home Run Derby three consecutive years, before the Aug 1 non-waiver trade deadline as part of the club's rebuilding efforts. 

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Gonzalez went 5-8 with a 3.73 ERA in 24 games (23 starts) after he was signed to a minor-league deal in early April. 

Jennings posted a 2.08 ERA in 60 2/3 innings. 

Putnam had a 2.30 ERA in 27 1/3 innings with 30 strikeouts before he had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow. 

Petricka was limited to nine appearances before his season was ended by hip surgery.

Both Petricka and Putnam are expected to be ready for spring training.

Top White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada impresses club at minicamp

Top White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada impresses club at minicamp

It was a limited look, but Yoan Moncada made a strong first impression on the White Sox this week.

Acquired from the Boston Red Sox last month in the Chris Sale trade, Moncada arrived in Glendale, Ariz., earlier this week with the franchise hopeful he'd offer a glimpse of the skills that earned him the designation as baseball's top prospect.

Moncada didn't disappoint, either, as he had White Sox evaluators excited throughout a three-day hitters camp. Whether it's his physicality, how he carried himself or his baseball IQ, White Sox staffers couldn't have been happier about their first experience with their new prized possession.

"(Moncada) looks like a linebacker, but he moves like a wide receiver," player development director Chris Getz said. "He's got good actions. He's obviously a switch hitter. He's got power. He can hit. He's got a good smile. He seems to be enjoying himself out here, he interacts well with his teammates.

"So far it has been very impressive, and we look forward to seeing more."

Hitting coach Todd Steverson said Moncada, 21, looked every bit the part when he first observed him from across the hall at the team's facility. Steverson spoke to friends in the scouting community and wasn't the least bit surprised when he encountered the 6-foot-2, 205-pound second baseman. Moncada was just as impressive on the field with his skills and effort, Steverson said.

"This is a large specimen right here," Steverson said. "He's put together pretty well.

"On defense it looks like he has some really good hands.

"He got in the box and he hadn't swung for a while. But still, you could tell he had good hands going through the zone, has a nice approach and wants to work real hard."

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Moncada's fancy tools have been well publicized since he received a $31.5-million signing bonus from the Red Sox in March 2015.

MLB.com graded Moncada's hit tool at 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale while his base running is 65 and arm is 60. Moncada's power received a 55 grade, and his fielding is 50. Moncada received an overall grade of 65, which suggests he has the ability to be a perennial All-Star and worth 4 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com.

But the White Sox weren't just impressed with Moncada's physical ability.

One of manager Rick Renteria's top objectives for the camp was to emphasize fundamentals and what's important to the team. Renteria wanted to identify specific game situations and how players are expected to handle them so they're well prepared for the future. Moncada handled that area well, too.

"Yoan is a very knowledgeable baseball player who has experience on a multitude of levels," amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. "In the brief time we had with him this week, he showed a tremendous ability to drive the ball the opposite way as well as drive balls to the gap and out of the ball park from both sides of the plate. That ability will help him handle and any all situations that Ricky asks him to do at the plate. Defensively his hands and feet are very good and will have no problem there. He's a bright hard-working kid that is part of a bright future for the organization."