On Thursday, the Texas Rangers came to an agreement with former Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski on a one-year $7.5 million dollar contract. Pierzynski has the perceived reputation of being rather detestable on and off of the diamond. However, Pierzynski does provide the Rangers with a much needed edge the club has been lacking. If one is cynical as to whether or not Pierzynski’s presence will have a cancerous effect on the clubhouse, the former Pale Hose backstop was praised by teammates as one of the leaders in 2005 when the White Sox won their first World Series since 1917.
In 2012, Pierzynski had a career year, hitting 27 HRs and driving in 77 with a line of .278/.326/.501/.827. The slugging percentage and OPS were both career highs for the catcher who turns 36 a week from Sunday. Pierzynski also yielded a career high wRC+ of 118, and the 3.4 fWAR he produced was the second highest of his big league tenure. While Pierzynski’s defense and arm strength are declining, he was still able to throw out 27 base runners attempting to steal last season, which is the total number of base runners Rangers catchers threw out in ’12.
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After coming to an agreement with Pierzynski, the Rangers do not appear to be finished in refining their club. The team is said to be in the running to sign outfielder Michael Bourn, outfielder Nick Swisher, first baseman Adam LaRoche, or even pitcher Kyle Lohse. Cody Ross has reportedly agreed to a three-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, which could open the possibility of a trade for outfielders Jason Kubel, or the player they originally coveted during the winter meetings, Justin Upton.
The speedy Bourn generated a career high 6.4 in fWAR last season. Pitchers enjoy having Bourn in center field as his quickness and instincts prevent many balls from falling for base hits. Bourn’s presence would also give GM Jon Daniels the ability to trade Leonys Martin or Craig Gentry for bullpen help.
Swisher hit over 20 HRs and knocked in over 80 RBIs in the last four seasons with the New York Yankees. Billy Beane’s infatuation in Moneyball has only had an OBP under .350 one time in his entire eight-year career.
Lohse would certainly improve the starting rotation as he has had solid FIPs of 3.67 and 3.51 the last two years. He posted a career high 134 in ERA+, and a career low 1.09 WHIP in ’12, but many are skeptical of Lohse and feel he is just a product of former pitching coach Dave Duncan.
LaRoche had career highs in wRC+ (127) and fWAR (3.8) in ’12, and hit the most home runs (33) of any free agent left on the market. If one still values RBIs, LaRoche has driven in 100 runs in two of the last three years.
Whether or not the Rangers will sign or trade for one or more of these available players is anyone’s guess. I feel Swisher is the best available option because of his ability to hit with power from both sides of the plate and play multiple positions is invaluable. Plus, Swisher has the propensity to reach base more often than even a player with the swiftness of Bourn. If Daniels could somehow sign both Swisher and Bourn, fans should be ecstatic.
Signing Bourn and Swisher would mean Nelson Cruz and David Murphy can alternate at designated hitter and left field, while Swisher becomes the primary right fielder. Bourn would be penciled in immediately to hit lead-off and would force manager Ron Washington to move Ian Kinsler into the middle of the order. Kinsler would also become the team’s first baseman to make room for potential superstar Jurickson Profar at second base. I envision the lineup looking something like this if Bourn and Swisher were both signed:
- Michael Bourn CF
- Elvis Andrus SS
- Nick Swisher RF
- Adrian Beltre 3B
- Ian Kinsler 1B
- A.J. Pierzynski C
- Nelson Cruz LF
- David Murphy DH
- Jurickson Profar 2B
Bourn has the great ability to reach base safely a variety of ways and swipe bags, and with a contact hitter such as Andrus hitting behind him, I believe the top two in the order would generate a ton of runs. The high OBP player Swisher hitting in front of Beltre will ensure Beltre will have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs. After Beltre, the lineup goes right, left, right, left, switch, which will become a headache for managers in later innings. With Profar hitting ninth, the lineup has three consecutive hitters with blazing speed, which will be terrifying to opposing defenses. The Rangers can once again become the team they were in ’10 and ’11, which was outstanding at manufacturing runs.
While none of the players the Rangers are linked to are quite as glamorous as a Zack Greinke or Josh Hamilton, all have the capability of helping the team win a World Series and would arguably make the team better than they were in 2012. One thing is certain, the Rangers are not through improving their club, and fans can count on Daniels working rigorously to put a winner on the field.
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