Texas Rangers: Catchers
The Rangers want to see that power from Arencibia, who was officially signed Tuesday at the winter meetings. But they hope that along with it comes a steady climb of his batting average and OBP. Perhaps hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark in Arlington will help the right-handed hitter.
In a small sample size, Arencibia has a .256 batting average (11-for-43) with seven homers, 10 RBIs and eight runs scored. That includes two multi-hit games and a .360 average (9-for-25) with the bases loaded. Arencibia has four home runs in his last four games at the park.
"I don’t know what it is, but whatever it is I’d like to bottle it up," Arencibia said. "I’ve enjoyed the park. One thing I enjoy is the heat. I really do like playing in the hot weather. That’s what I grew up doing in Miami. I enjoy that part of it and the atmosphere. The stadium always has a large amount of fans and that makes playing more enjoyable."
Arencibia gives the Rangers a catching tandem at an affordable price -- for around $5 million -- and he said he has no issues with his role as the backup to Geovany Soto.
"My job is to go out there and try to work with Geo every day, whether it be going over scouting reports or playing," Arencibia said. "It’s about putting the best team out there and helping out pitchers get through the games."
With teams making decisions on whether to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players by 10:59 CT tonight, the Rangers could get a better sense of what is out there and what options could be available that weren't before tonight.
One possibility: J.P. Arencibia. The Rangers have "some" level of interest, according to a source, and it seems likely that the Toronto Blue Jays will deal the catcher before tonight's deadline. Arencibia hit just .194 with 148 strikeouts in 474 at-bats. He had just 18 walks. So Arencibia struck out in nearly 30 percent of his plate appearances -- why would Texas even have a little interest? Because Arencibia has power -- he had 21 home runs last season and has averaged a little more than 20 homers the past three seasons. But other than that, the numbers aren't particularly impressive. Toronto is ready to part with Arencibia after signing Dioner Navarro. If the Jays can't trade Arencibia, reports are that the Jays will non-tender him, making him a free agent. Update: Arencibia was non-tendered, which means he's a free agent and any club, including Texas, can talk to him.
The Cleveland Indians have decided to non-tender Lou Marson. He was the Tribe's primary backup from 2010 to 2012 but didn't play much at all (three games) in 2013 because of injuries. Marson had a neck strain and a shoulder injury and was effectively out for the season. He has a career .219 average but a .309 on-base percentage. And he'd come cheap as a backup to Soto.
Perhaps the club could also look at a trade with Cincinnati for Ryan Hanigan, who is known for excellent defensive skills. The Pirates acquired Chris Stewart today, taking another backup catching possibility off the market.
But tonight, perhaps, the Rangers will have a better idea of parts of the catching market.
McCann’s agent, BB Abbott, says it doesn’t change what he and his staff believe McCann’s value is this offseason. But he acknowledges that it could alter how other teams view that market.
“There are certainly teams that are probably looking at the deal and think it has to impact what they’re going to do in this market,” Abbott said. “It doesn’t change what we think of him. But it’s significant in that another catcher is off the market. It’s another puzzle piece that isn’t out there.”
The fact that the Phillies were willing to guarantee three years (at $26 million, according to various reports) to a catcher who turns 35 in January can’t hurt McCann’s attempt to get as much security as possible in his next deal.
Abbott wouldn’t go into any details about the teams that have expressed interest, but said he isn’t in any rush to get a deal done. The Rangers are interested and the buzz at the general manager meetings, according to a variety of reports, was that their interest level was high. McCann’s left-handed power bat would help the Texas lineup and he could catch some, but also DH and learn to play first base, giving Rangers manager Ron Washington some options in terms of filling out the lineup card.
Abbott didn’t want to discuss any of that, vowing not to talk specifics. He said many teams are still talking about their options internally and even looking at trade possibilities with each other.
“That’s to be expected this team of year,” Abbott said. “Brian is going to be coveted on the market. Guys of this magnitude don’t make it to free agency as a catcher. There’s a reason for that. I don’t have any trepidation at all about waiting. If a team wants to move more quickly, we certainly would do that. But I think Brian sits out on an island by himself.”
Abbott said the length of the contract is just one of many factors that McCann will take into account when making his decision.
“First and foremost, he wants to go to a place that he feels can compete and win,” Abbott said. “He wants to be in a place where there’s a good fit, where the coaching staff, clubhouse, and front office are a good fit. He wants to be where it’s a good fit for his family to live. He also wants to make sure he fulfills what he wants out of free agency and that’s the deal he ultimately signs.”
The reality is Ruiz's deal may be really good news for A.J. Pierzynski and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, two catchers in that tier below McCann. Stay tuned.
For starters, he can be Yu Darvish's usual catcher in 2014 if he needs to be. That may depend largely on who is signed as the club's No. 1 catcher, but there's no question Darvish is comfortable with Soto. He has a calming influence on the pitcher.
To keep Soto, the club paid a reasonable price of $3.05 million (plus incentives). He threw out nearly 30 percent of attempted runners, and it wasn't as if teams thought they could steal on him with relative ease (that number was sixth in the league). Soto is a solid defensive catcher, and he appeared to find it a bit with the bat late in the season. He hit just .245 for the season, but .324 after the All-Star break. That should give him some offensive confidence heading into spring training.
And is it just me, or did it seem that every Soto hit in September was in a clutch situation?
If you're going to invest what the Rangers invested in Darvish, who has elite stuff, why not spend a little to be sure he fits well with his catcher? It's a smart, relatively inexpensive move.
|Manager Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons to discuss the Rangers' comeback win over the Angels, A.J. Pierzynski's value to the team and much more. |
In 2012, the Rangers didn't get enough from the catching position. They ended up trading for Geovany Soto at the deadline and released Yorvit Torrealba in an effort to spark something. But with Napoli struggling and dealing with injuries, it never happened. Rangers catchers hit just .228 in 2012 and were middle of the pack in just about every offensive category. It was not a position of offensive strength, though Napoli did hit 24 home runs in limited playing time.
In 2011, the Rangers were tops in the AL in the average by catchers, hitting .299 behind the ridiculous second half that Napoli put together. Then, they were at or near the top in most of the offensive numbers for catchers.
They are trending that way again in 2013 thanks to A.J. Pierzynski. He had two key at-bats on Monday, helping the club rally in the seventh and then hitting the solo home run to give the club the lead with two outs in the ninth (Joe Nathan got the save to end it). Texas catchers are hitting .286, good enough for fifth in the league. The 10 RBIs are tied for third, along with the four home runs. We'll see if they can keep up that trend. But early in the season, it's been big for the Rangers to get some offensive production from Pierzynski behind the plate.
Sure, many times manager Ron Washington comes into his office five hours or so prior to the game and writes out a lineup that will have a regular getting a day off because he believes they need it. Or he'll deliberately play someone because he doesn't want them to get "stale," as he calls it.
On Sunday, bench coach Jackie Moore followed Washington into his office and asked a simple question: "Have you thought about giving A.J. a day?"
Washington said he had thought about it, but Moore's statement made him think even more. And even though it was Pierzynski behind the plate for Yu Darvish's near perfect game on Tuesday, Washington decided Sunday was the night to let Pierzynski take a break.
The move makes sense. Soto has to get some playing time and he was Darvish's regular catcher last year. So why not give him a shot tonight and get a fresher Pierzynski for the upcoming series against the Tampa Bay Rays?
Washington relies on his staff, including Moore, pitching coach Mike Maddux, bullpen coach Andy Hawkins, first base coach Dave Anderson, third base coach Gary Pettis and hitting coach Dave Magadan, to help him make some key decisions. Washington is, of course, the man with the final say. But he takes input and he listens to those coaches. And Moore wanted to be sure that Soto wasn't just sitting for the first full week of the season.
"They work with those guys and they know when someone might need a break or somebody should play," Washington said. "So we talk about that as we're putting things together."
Isn't that how a coaching staff should work?
In fact, no active player has more games played at catcher (1,599) and starts (1,478) than Pierzynski. He’s 14th all time in starts behind the dish.
Of course, in the Texas heat, starting 120 games may not be possible. But Pierzynski could end up eclipsing the 100-game barrier as the true starter in 2013, if he stays healthy. Geovany Soto is his backup.
Pierzynski said starting that many games helps with continuity between himself and the staff.
“I take a lot of pride in going out there every day and playing,” Pierzynski said. “When you’re in a three-game series, you’re back there the first two games and by the third game you should have a pretty good idea of what you can do against that team. I think it allows you to have a better game plan and to know how you attack a certain team.”
|The Rangers are arriving in Surprise, Ariz., for spring training and Ben and Skin discuss what to expect from the team this season. |
“I want to catch as many as I can, talk to them as much as I can and see how they like to go about it,” Pierzynski said. “(I want to) talk to (pitching coach) Mike Maddux as much as possible about what he sees in guys and what he expects. Every day is a chance to learn something more about these guys.”
He said he’s ready to get things going.
“I’m coming in here to a new team, a team that has high expectations, a team that’s been to the playoffs three years in a row and the World Series two of the last three years,” Pierzynski said. “You just want to continue it and help them continue to have the success they’ve had over the last few years and not mess it up. You try to help in any way you can and everything else will work out.”
ESPN Stats & Information's Lee Singer contributed to this blog entry.
"Guys were coming back saying, 'This guy has really good stuff,'" said Pierzynski during the Texas Rangers Fan Fest over the weekend. "That's something as a player when you hear guys say that, that's something you're very interested to hear."
Pierzynski said he'll work to get used to a new pitching staff in spring training, learning their tendencies and repertoire. But from what he's seen from outside the organization, he's impressed with the staff. That includes Darvish.
"Obviously, the numbers speak for themselves," Pierzynski said. "Everything he did, from the beginning of the season to the end, obviously there was an adjustment period. But he looked like he could throw four, five pitches for strikes at any time. He looked like he could do anything you asked him to do.
"I look forward to being on his side and trying to get the most out of him and helping him improve and continue to get better."
Martinez, who appeared in 10 games in two different stints with the Rangers in 2012, was designated for assignment to make room for A.J. Pierzynski on the 40-man roster.
Also, catcher Eli Whiteside cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Round Rock. He was designated for assignment to make room for Jason Frasor on the roster.
Whiteside played in 12 games with the Giants last year and was claimed by the Rangers from Toronto on Dec. 12. Whiteside was invited for major league spring training as a non-roster invitee.
Q: What do you think is the right number of games for Pierzynski to start at catcher in 2013? What kind of defensive catcher is he?
Levine: I think 90 to 100 games should be his limit. At his age to get optimum offensive production at the plate, they should limit the games. Defensively, he still calls a great game. He is very demanding of his pitchers and calls a solid game. But some of his skills have diminished, like blocking balls. The White Sox were second in the AL in passed balls and some of it had to do with his lack of mobility behind the plate.
Q: What is Pierzynski like in the clubhouse?
Levine: He's a tireless worker and he's in there working on aerobics and weights probably earlier than any player on the team. His personality is an acquired taste. In other words, there are days when he's more gregarious towards people than others. Moody would be a description.
Q: What made him such a good hitter in 2012?
Levine: He never defined what he found, but he did say that he found some type of mechanism that allowed him to drive the ball on a more consistent basis. He did seem to have an extra 15 to 20 feet on a lot of his base hits in 2012, meaning balls that were on the warning track were going out of the park. Pierzynski's always been a strong guy, but he developed more of a home run swing in 2012.
Q: What kind of competitor is he? How hard does he work?
Levine: He's one of the better competitors I've ever seen. His thoughts are all about winning on that particular day. All players at this level concentrate on winning, but Pierzynski is a fierce competitor. He also knows the rules and the nuances of the game as well as anybody I've ever seen. For a big guy, he's one of the smarter baserunners of anyone in baseball. Not particularly swift, but astute enough to move up a base or two when he knows a particular arm isn't very strong or an outfielder is catching a ball at a angle where he can move to the next base.
Q: Anything else about Pierzynski that Ranger fans should know?
Levine: He's an interesting study because he's so smart. He's one of the smarter people and players I've met. Not just baseball, but self-educated after baseball. His IQ has to be 150 or 160. He has a tremendous mind. He has aspirations after his career of being in the media, probably, and being a big-time broadcaster. But I wouldn't be shocked if he was a manager at some point in the major leagues.
I think Texas spent their money well on a one-year deal. He's going to play hard and bring energy to the clubhouse. At 36, I'm not sure catching 100 games in the Texas weather will work. But he could catch 90 and play DH the rest of the time and help Texas.
With the loss of Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli, the club could use some more power and production in the lineup.
Napoli, whose deal with the Boston Red Sox is still not finalized, hit 24 home runs and drove in 56 runs, while Hamilton pounded 43 homers and had 128 RBIs.
They made up part of that power with the signing of A.J. Pierzynski, who hit 27 home runs last season. But the club would like to acquire one more bat.
"We're looking at that now," Daniels said Wednesday during a conference call with the media. "There's a decent chance we'll look to add somebody."
Daniels said that could be through trade or free agency.
The club has had talks at various points during this offseason with the Arizona Diamondbacks about Justin Upton, though nothing has come of it to this point.
Read more here.
A.J. Pierzynski officially signed his one-year contract with the Rangers and claims he no longer is frustrated about not being selected to last year's All-Star team by Texas manager Ron Washington.
Pierzynski, who recently had lunch with Washington and other Rangers officials, said he is excited to play for Washington and isn't upset anymore.
"It came up (at the lunch), and I made a joke of it," Pierzynski said on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. "It was over as soon as it happened. You're disappointed as a player because you want to go to the All-Star Game and be honored that way. But when it was over, it was over."
Pierzynski said he's talked to some players who have played for Washington and has heard "nothing but praise."
Washington managed the American League All-Star team for the second straight season in 2012 but didn't have room on the roster for Pierzynski. He said at the time that it was the toughest omission.
"I know he was in a tough spot," Pierzynski said. "It wouldn't change how I feel about Ron Washington because I know what he's done in this game and where he stands. I'm over it and hopefully we can move on from that also."
Washington said Wednesday the whole episode is "old news" and that he's moving forward, claiming he is pleased to have Pierzynski on the Rangers.
"I always believed he did anything and everything he had to do to try to beat you," Washington said.
Read more here.
"A.J. is signing on as our guy," Washington said. "Geo, he will get some playing time. But A.J. will be the front-runner."
Pierzynski has started at least 112 games at catcher in every season since 2002 and has started in at least 121 games in seven of those seasons. He started in 121 games in 2012, batting .278 with 27 homers and 77 RBIs in 479 at-bats. Pierzynski turns 36 on Sunday, but said he feels good and is ready for another full season.
Physically, I feel awesome," Pierzynski said. "Mentally, I'm as good as I’ve ever been. I always joke that I’ve got to thank my mom and dad because they gave me good genes, as far as health goes. I approach every year the same. I’d love to catch 162, but it’s not going to happen. I’ll be ready to play whenever I'm needed as long as I’m physically able to."
Pierzynski said he enjoys the heat and is not concerned with how that might impact him. He said he's learned the importance of staying hydrated and growing up in Florida gave him an appreciation for the heat and how to play in it.
The acquisition of A.J. Pierzynski, pending a physical, means the Rangers have addressed one of their biggest needs this offseason: catcher.
Geovany Soto and Pierzynski is divided is up to manager Ron Washington. But when he's not catching, Pierzynski could be the designated hitter depending on the lineup that day.
The Rangers needed a left-handed hitter and one, preferably, with some power. Pierzynski satisfies both of those needs. He's coming off a career-high 27 homers and 77 RBIs. Rangers general manager Jon Daniels acknowledged during the offseason that the club might not be able to get its long-term catching situation resolved. Instead, they get two catchers on short-term deals and can look at the market again next winter.
As a group, the Rangers' catchers hit .228 in 2012, which was eighth in the American League. That had a .299 average in 2011, which was No. 1 in the league. The 2012 catchers included Mike Napoli, who agreed to terms on a three-year deal with the Boston Red Sox at the Winter Meetings, but the deal has not been finalized. He started the season as the No. 1 catcher with Yorvit Torrealba backing him up. But the Rangers acquired Soto at the trade deadline and placed Torrealba on waivers.
I'm not concerned about Pierzynski in the clubhouse. You can look at it two ways, I guess. On the one hand, you could be worried that his brash style and reputation isn't what a great clubhouse needs. But I don't look at it that way. I go the other way and think that this club has a strong group in there and Pierzynski is a competitor. He's playing for a contender and I think he'll do his part to help. His teammates won't have a problem with that and his style won't alter the room to the point that it's detrimental, in my opinion.
This is a good move for the Rangers. In a thin catching market, they get one of the top available pieces out there. He's a veteran with postseason experience too, helping the White Sox win the 2005 World Series as the starting catcher. In 30 playoff games, Pierzynski is hitting .300 with five homers, 17 RBIs and a .892 OPS.
General manager Jon Daniels didn't get into details, but he didn't hide the fact that the Rangers made a call on Napoli.
"Ultimately, we had a decision to make and it's not like we weren't a big reason that didn't happen," Daniels said in reference to Napoli not returning to Texas. "I think Mike was a huge part of probably the best team in the history of this franchise. I don't take that lightly."
So in the spirit of the Winter Meetings, let's pretend we're all GMs (knowing, of course, that there's a good reason we're not). Do you give Napoli that third year at a price similar to what Boston offered if that's what it took to keep him in a Texas Rangers uniform?
I don't. It's easy to look back now and say the Rangers should have handed Napoli a one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer. If he can get three years, he would have declined that and the Rangers would have a draft pick. But the Rangers didn't have the luxury of knowing that market when they made the decision. But when it comes to whether they should go three years for a player who was banged up last year and struggled at the plate, that's a different call. Napoli would have had more chances to catch in Texas, but he'll be hitting in Fenway Park, a place that appears to suit him, and he'll have the security of a three-year deal. At $13 million a year, I can see why the Rangers wouldn't want to go three years guaranteed.
That doesn't change the fact that a fan favorite isn't returning. My Twitter feed shows that disappoints many of you and it does me too. He was fun to have in the clubhouse, fit in tremendously well with the club culture as a whole and produced one of the greatest second halves of baseball ever seen (the guy would have been the World Series MVP in 2011 had the Rangers won). He'll be missed. And now the Rangers need another catcher.
But I wouldn't have given Napoli that third guaranteed year at that price tag. Would you?
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