The Minnesota Twins have a solid catcher in Kurt Suzuki.
While his .240/.296/.314 slash line might not be eye popping, Suzuki was still fifth among American League catchers in runs batted in last season and he hit an impressive .290 with runners in scoring position for the season. However, the Twins still need help at the position, as it has been difficult for the team to find a solid backup and the farm system doesn’t seem to have the answer for 2016.
This is where the return of old friend A.J. Pierzynski can be a big free agent catch for Minnesota this winter. The Twins bounced back and forth between 30-year-old Eric Fryer and 27-year-old Chris Herrmann as backup catching options last season and neither of them impressed as the duo had a combined batting average of .160.
One of the Twins biggest offseason needs is an improved backup catcher so they can get production from the position on the days that Suzuki rests his legs on the bench. Pierzynski is a big upgrade who won’t break the bank.
He has been a model of consistency throughout his career, which began with the Twins back in 1998. Pierzynski has hit at least .270 in seven of the last eight seasons and it’s impossible to argue that he isn’t an upgrade over what Herrmann and Fryer bring to the table. The soon-to-be 39-year-old will probably be asking for a pay increase on his $2 million salary from 2015 after slashing .300/.339/.430 with the Atlanta Braves, but he is still a player that general manager Terry Ryan should have a great deal of interest in this winter due to the relative weakness of the free agent market for catchers this offseason.
A roster that features both Pierzynski and Suzuki as the two catchers would be a huge boost for the offense. While both veterans would be able to give each other plenty of days off – keeping their legs fresh throughout the season – manager Paul Molitor will be able to mix and match the pair to help boost the team’s offense.
Pierzynski and Suzuki would complement each other very nicely as a backstop tandem because of their strengths at the plate. The right handed hitting Suzuki was far more effective against lefties in terms of both average and power, while the opposite goes for the left handed hitting Pierzynski, who is much stronger when facing righties.
There are probably a handful of Twins fans who would roll their eyes at the possibility of Pierzynski returning to the Twin Cities, as he has been greeted with a steady chorus of boos every time he digs into the batters box as a visitor. His locker room presence has been questioned throughout his career and former Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who won the 2005 World Series with Pierzynski as his starting catcher, has been quoted saying “if you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less.”
No matter what his deal is off the diamond, Minnesota needs a second catcher and the free agent market isn’t that great this offseason. Any clear upgrade over what the Twins were using behind Suzuki last year should be welcomed with open arms and the fact that Pierzynski hits right handed pitching so well would be a big bonus.