The Minnesota Twins are in the playoff race but like every other team in this situation, they still need some help. This help could come in the form of former Minnesota catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who played for the Twins from 1998 to 2003 and made the All-Star team in 2002.
Adding a second catcher to the roster would be a big boost for the Twins as Chris Herrmann is no longer cutting it after winning backup job in Spring Training. Herrmann is batting a miserable .156 this season and his career average is below .200, suggesting that better days are not ahead. The franchise was probably hoping that Josmil Pinto would be able to come up from Triple-A and fill the void at some point, but a .232 average with the Rochester Red Wings isn’t good enough to merit a promotion either. General Manager Terry Ryan might need to begin looking outside the organization to find a second catcher.
The Atlanta Braves are not out of the race by any means but they’re currently sitting in third place in the National League East and might find themselves in a bigger hole by the time the trade deadline rolls around. This could prompt them to become sellers and moving their veteran catcher who is on a low-risk, one-year deal could be a move that helps two clubs out.
Trading for their former catcher might not be too popular with fans right away in the Twin Cities. Pierzynski is greeted with boos every time he returns to Minnesota, but the 38-year-old he can still play. He is batting .258 and has slugged five home runs with the Braves this year and would be a huge upgrade over Herrmann. This would even allow the Twins to give Kurt Suzuki even a few extra days off here and there to keep both aging backstops fresh for a run at the playoffs.
Pierzynski is a seasoned veteran in the postseason too and he has a career .292 postseason batting average over 32 games. He hit a crucial ninth inning home run in Game Five of the 2002 American League Divisional Series, helping the Twins advance to the ALCS. Pierzynski was also the starting catcher on the 2005 Chicago White Sox team that won the World Series.
Minnesota did show interest in signing Pierzynski when he became a free agent after the 2013 season, but he decided to sign with the Boston Red Sox instead.
There are downsides to bringing back this old friend of the team because there is a reason why he is booed when returning. Pierzynski has earned the reputation as a high-maintenance player, fair or not, and could really disrupt the chemistry of a team that has gelled so well. Former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen summed up Pierzynski’s character by saying, “if you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less.” That kind of player might wind up destroying a Twins team that seems to be riding high on chemistry right now.
There is a lot of thought that would need to go into a trade for Pierzynski and there will be plenty of other catchers on the market who don’t provide clubhouse headaches. In terms of on-field talent, this would be a move that makes the Twins better right away but in the long run it still might not be the best move.