The Yankees need a catcher and one of the very few available out there is long time White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, but the two have not had serious talks yet. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Yankees are hesitant because they only view him as an average defender.
Pierzynski is certainly a questionable fielder, not a liability, but questionable. He doesn’t have a strong arm, catching just 24 percent of runners in his career, and he also racks up quite a bit of throwing errors each year so it’s not like he makes up for it with accuracy. He’s also slow moving which means bunts often turn into hits. He is a good pitch framer though, not Russell Martin good, but slightly above average where he will save the pitching staff a couple of runs per year.
The thing is though, the Yankees current options are not especially attractive either. Francisco Cervelli throws out just 20 percent of runners and makes even more throwing errors. Base runners tend to take extra bases on Cervelli, via wild pitches, passed balls, and stolen bases, at a greater rate than Pierzynski does.
Chris Stewart is better than both catchers at every aspect on defense, but without designated fielders he puts a lot of strain on the lineup. Pierzynski is coming off a year with a 118 OPS+ and has a 96 OPS+ throughout his career, Cervelli has a 84 OPS+ in his career, but Stewart is way below both of those at a 61 OPS+ for his career. If defense is the goal, he’s unquestionably your man, but the Yankees lineup is already going to be weaker next season — do they really want to make it worse by using Stewart regularly?
Considering Pierzynski is a better hitter and defender than Cervelli, unless the Yankees are prepared to settle for a horrible hitting catcher, then they should get over their concerns and begin serious negotiations. That is unless he’s looking for a multi-year deal which we know by now is a non-starter for them.