Hey look, a move we all kind of saw coming!
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 12, 2015
The incentives are pretty significant, so let’s sum them up with this – while it’s a gradual buildup to this number, if A.J. Pierzynski starts 100 games for Atlanta, he’ll make $3,000,000 in total salary. Last year he started 104. Of course, if he starts 100 games, it’ll likely be a bargain for the Braves. I can’t see the team giving the 39 year old 100 starts unless he is playing really well like last year. Even if Christian Bethancourt disappoints again, the team is unlikely to let a poorly playing 39 year old start ahead of him. Also notable is the signing bonus – 1/3 of the guaranteed money will be paid to Pierzynski next month, before the end of the 2015 year. Possibly, Atlanta had some money leftover in the 2015 budget and managed to save themselves a cool million for other use in 2016. It might be insignificant, but it could be something.
Pierzynski’s .300/.339/.430 season was a very nice surprise for Atlanta last year in a 2015 that was bereft of nice surprises. His composite WAR was 2.1, a productive total. All the production was offensive, which isn’t really a complaint in Atlanta. Depending on the source, his defense gets mixed reviews at best. On the upside, pitchers seem to like pitching to him. The pitchers don’t actually do any better pitching to Pierzynski, but a few seem to like it, and his connection with Shelby Miller seems to be somewhat positive. Even if it’s just imaginary advantages related to good vibes, good vibes are better than bad ones.
Pierzynski did not have a good season in 2015 as a pitch framer, as both Baseball Prospectus and Stat Corner graded him at nearly 10 framing runs behind average. Neither site’s metric has graded him positively since 2011, so this doesn’t appear to be a one year blip. Pierzynski may again add runs with his bat, but he’s not likely to prevent them by stealing extra strikes.
The upside of the signing is threefold:
- Offense. I think it’s a longshot for AJ to repeat his 2015 offensive numbers, but he should at least be predictable to an extent, and he should provide some moderate pop. A .260/.300/.400 line isn’t unrealistic.
- Veteran leadership. Veteran leadership is overrated by many, but there’s some real value when the team just isn’t very good. This roster isn’t ready to compete yet, but a few veterans can teach them how to work for when that competition come.
- Trade deadline fodder. If he’s good again (or maybe even if he isn’t) and the Braves aren’t, there could be a market for him.
The downside is this: The Braves can’t spend the $3,000,000 on anyone else. That’s a pretty minor downside. There’s also the downside of this being an indication that Atlanta won’t be signing a bigger name for the position, but considering the short-term landscape of Atlanta baseball, I’m not sure how much of a downside that really is. Is now the time to ink a big name at a position that ages comparatively quickly?
It’s not a re-signing that will take Atlanta to the playoffs, but it’s a comfortable one that makes sense for both sides. Atlanta fans could use some familiar faces this year, and despite a tenure of just one year, he is comparatively a longtime Brave. For just $3,000,000, it’s worth it to have him back.