With eye to future, Red Sox take stock of A.J. Pierzynski's departure

July 09, 2014 - 3:18 pm

When he inked a one-year, $8.25 million contract with Boston on December 3, 2013, A.J. Pierzynski was expected to be a short-term, if not suitable, solution behind the plate for the Red Sox this season. He may not have been in the team'€™s plans for the long haul, but even Pierzynski couldn'€™t have expected that his tenure in Boston would reach its conclusion at such an early juncture. Pierzynski was designated for assignment Wednesday afternoon after just 72 games with the Red Sox, batting.254 with a .286 OBP, .348 slugging mark, four home runs and 31 RBIs this season. For Red Sox manager John Farrell, the move was necessary for the team to look to the future, as Pawtucket catcher Christian Vazquez was called up to fill Pierzynski'€™s open roster spot. Vazquez is a part of the team's future beyond 2014; Pierzynski never was, which is why he was signed to a one-year contract as something of a placeholder. "€œObviously we designated A.J. earlier today," Farrell said. "It'€™s an opportunity for us to invest in players that we feel are going to be here beyond 2014 and while there may be other decisions that are forthcoming, we felt like the place we where we were going to start with was behind the plate." "€œYou never want to see a teammate get released or have to leave for any reason,"€ said catcher David Ross before Wednesday'€™s game against the White Sox. "We wish him the best, he'€™s had a great major league career up to this point."€ With the departure of Jarrod Saltalamacchia after the 2013 season, Boston looked for a backstop that would both approximate Saltalamachia'€™s impressive offensive numbers from last year (.273/.338/.466 with 54 extra-base hits, 65 RBIs) while also being on a short-term deal that would avoid blocking promising catchers in the organization going forward - such as Vazquez or Portland'€™s Blake Swihart. For Farrell, Pierzynski -- who averaged 22 home runs and 74 RBIs over 2012 and 2013 -- fit all those requirements. "€œWe thought, one, that we needed a left-handed hitting catcher,"€ Farrell said. "€œWe thought that the need to bring a guy in on a short-term deal fit because of the guys coming through the system. [Pierzynski is] someone who has led successful pitching staffs in the past. A number of the boxes checked off when we had to replace [Saltalamacchia]." While Pierzynski underwhelmed both at the plate (.286 OBP) and defensively (19 percent caught-stealing percentage), both Ross and Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington stated that it was Boston'€™s record -- 39-51 and 10 1/2 games out of first place in the AL East -- €“that served as the chief reason for Pierzynski'€™s departure. "The offense wasn'€™t there, and I'€™m not trying to be critical of him, it wasn'€™t a lack of effort on his part -€“ it just wasn'€™t there," Cherington said. "When you sign A.J. Pierzynski, that'€™s what you'€™re hoping you'€™re getting: left-handed offense at a premium position. We thought that that was important to the team, that if we got that, it would compliment the team. ... That left-handed offense just wasn'€™t there. Cherington added: "As I explained to A.J., I take responsibility for where we are, and if the team'€™s record was different, then we may not have done something like this right now, but we are where we are, so we need to start looking at things a little bit differently and this is one part of that." "You don'€™t come expecting that kind of stuff, so yeah, you'€™re caught a little off guard," Ross said. "There'€™s some things that come with losing and not playing up to par as a whole and a group and things start happening that are kind of out of your control. If we would have played better, he probably wouldn't be out of here." The 2014 season looks like a lost cause at this point for the Red Sox, as Boston is on track to finish the year with a 77-85 record and only have a 3.6 percent chance of making it into the playoffs, according to Fangraphs. While Pierzynski'€™s removal from the roster might be the first domino to drop in what could be a string of veteran players being cast off going forward, Ross remained adamant that the team is still trying to salvage what has been a disastrous campaign so far in 2014. "€œWe want to win,"€ Ross proclaimed. "There'€™s no secret about that. ... Coming off last year, I don'€™t think any of us were expecting this, but, that being said, let'€™s go forward today with what we got and try to win today and tomorrow. ... We'€™re trying our best, we'€™re doing our best and I think we'€™re playing hard. It'€™s just not getting it done."