Could the Dodgers double down on A.J.s? The rumor mill is swirling, and one of the newest ones connected to the Dodgers is that they are rumored to be interested in catcher A.J. Pierzynski. I’m not totally against the idea since the left-hand hitting catcher did have a great season last year with the Chicago White Sox where he hit a career high 27 homeruns, 77 RBIs, and batted .278 in 135 games. The 35-year old backstop could also be on the radar for the Yankees who have just let Russell Martin go to the Pirates. The problem I have with Pierzynski and the Dodgers is that the 35-year old backstop would cost way too much money compared to the catching duo of A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz. Ellis is arbitration-eligible in 2013, and he made $490,000 in 2012.
Last season Pierzynski made $6 million with the White Sox, so going with Ellis and FedEx would cost a fraction of the price. A.J. Ellis also had a breakout season with the Dodgers in his first full year as the primary catcher. Even though he tailed off toward the end of the season due to a undisclosed knee injury which required offseason surgery, the fan favorite who drew a cult following and All-Star campaign push, finished the season with a .270/.373/.414 line with 13 homeruns and 65 walks in 133 games. Ellis also showed the Dodgers that he was a solid defender as well, and his caught stealing percentage was 33% on the year. He only allowed 11 passed balls, and he made just 6 errors. A.J. Ellis had certainly earned himself the starting catcher position after his strong year.
Is A.J. Pierzynski ready to be a backup catcher? I don’t think so, and pushing A.J. Ellis to
the backup spot would certainly be the wrong move. In comparison, Pierzynski’s on base percentage in 2012 was .326 and Ellis’s OBP was .373 which was tied with Jon Jay and Yadier Molina for 10th ranked in the league. Pierzynski had more power, but if you look at his two prior seasons in 2011 and 2010, he only hit 8 and 9 homeruns. Last season he drew way less walks than Ellis (28 compared to 65).
There’s also the young talent of Tim Federowicz that needs to be utilized. FedEx has only 20 plate appearances at the big league level, but the right-hand hitting 25-year old is seen as the probable second catcher to make the Opening Day roster for the Dodgers. In a full season down in AAA-Albuquerque, Federowicz had a great year and finished with a .294 batting average with 11 homeruns and 76 RBIs in 115 games. Defensively he has a strong arm, and he had a caught stealing percentage of 39% in 2012. It’s time to let Federowicz get the opportunity on the big club, and I don’t see a reason for him to be stuck in AAA for another season unless it’s because he needs constant work. We saw that A.J. Ellis gets somewhat worn down throughout the course of the long grueling season, so perhaps the Dodgers can rest Ellis more and allow FedEx to catch on those days.
The Dodgers have a clear agenda coming into the winter meetings, and their shopping list includes starting pitching, a left-handed reliever, and a revamped bench which includes a backup first baseman and fourth outfielder. I have not once heard Ned Colletti say that he was in the market for another catcher, and after they declined Matt Treanor‘s option last month it looked like the path for FedEx was cleared.
Unless the Dodgers are set on having FedEx play in AAA again next season, then signing A.J. Pierzynski would simply be a waste of money. Money that should be funneled right into the bank account of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.