Of A.J. Pierzynski, and Edwin Jackson
By Eric Reining
In the somewhat defunct carousel that is this current offseason for the Rangers, today might finally deliver us a bit of traction. Reports surfaced as early as this afternoon that the Texas front office had plans of meeting tonight with free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski and his agent, as well as a Tweet from ESPN’s Jim Bowden stating that the race for right-hander Edwin Jackson has come down to the Rangers and Cubs.
I’ll admit, I’m not exactly jazzed of the idea of A.J. Pierzynski being the Rangers predominant catcher in 2013, but when you juxtapose his abilities with Texas’s current backstop duo, Geovany Soto and Eli Whiteside, it does make a justifiable amount of sense.
Pierznyski, 36, had arguably the best season of his career in 2012, posting a triple slash of .278/.306/.501, generating a wRC+ of 118 — 3rd in the AL behind Joe Mauer and Carlos Santana. His defensive skills have always been considered suspect, at best, but again, if you’re pinning him against Geovany Soto and Eli Whiteside, you might have to make some concessions regarding his lack of defensive prowess, in hopes that he may be able to generate the same type of offensive success generated last season.
It’s a big question mark just how far the Rangers would be able to go in terms of years and dollars, but Joey Matches of BBTiA suggests something in the 2-year, $18 million range would be reasonable. I could get behind that sort of deal.
Secondly, it’s the curious case of Edwin Jackson, the highly-touted right-handed starter who broke into the big leagues at age-19, and who’s currently making a run at pitching for every team in baseball by the time he’s 35.
His peripherals really aren’t that bad, posting a career ERA of 4.40, which is almost exactly what the Rangers would be looking for — a middle-to-back-end-of-the-rotation starter who could chew up innings. In the last three years, where he’s spent time with 5 different organizations, his xFIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) has been surprisingly strong, tossing up a 3.71, 3.73 and 3.79 in succession. In dealing with pitchers moving forward, predictive stats like xFIP and SIERA give you a more clear indication than ERA, or, please, just don’t … wins and losses.
The projected salary Jackson would command is supposedly 3 years at about $12 million-$13 million AAV, rounding out at between $36 million and $39 million over the life of the contract.
If Pierzynski, who totaled 3.4 fWAR in 2012, and Jackson, who produced 2.7 fWAR in 2012 (after 3.6, 3.9, and 3.9 in ’10, ’11, and ’12), could somehow deliver an extra 5.0 wins in 2013, it would kick the Rangers up into the 90-win territory, a borderline playoff team. Between the two of them, that seems to be a reasonable projection.
Even with AJP in the lineup, and even with Edwin Jackson rounding out the rotation, hypothetically, I still wouldn’t be comfortable considering the Rangers a strong choice to make the playoffs in 2013. If somehow Nick Swisher was added to that collection, we might instead be challenging for an AL West crown. But as it stands now, we still have some work to do, and, well, thus far we really haven’t even started working.