Cardinals Sign Free Agent Pierzynski to Catch

Injured Yadier Molina’s backfill behind the plate for St. Louis will be veteran A.J. Pierzynski, recently released by the Red Sox.

The St. Louis Cardinals announced prior to Saturday’s game against the Chicago Cubs that they have signed veteran free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski and expect him to be in uniform (#35) for the afternoon game at Wrigley Field. To make room for Pierzynski on the team’s active roster, the Cardinals have designated catcher George Kottaras for assignment.

A veteran of 17 seasons in the majors, Pierzynski, 37, ranks 1st among active catchers with 1,742 of his 1,835 career games having come behind the plate. Cardinals perennial All-Star Yadier Molina is 2nd on that list having caught 1,276 games.

The left-handed hitting Pierzynski owns a career .282 batting average with 176 home runs and 831 RBI, while having played for Minnesota (1998-2003), San Francisco (2004), Chicago White Sox (2005-12), Texas (2013) and Boston (2014). His 169 career homers hit as a catcher rank 12th all-time among backstops.

Pierzynski (pronounced peer-ZIN-skee) batted .254 with 4 HR’s and 31 RBI in 72 games for the Red Sox this season before being released on July 16.

The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Pierzynski led American League catchers with a .998 fielding pct. last season and he holds the American League record for consecutive errorless chances with 962.

Pierzynski, who was a member of the White Sox 2005 World Championship team, is a two-time American League All-Star (2002 and 2006) and he was voted the American League Silver Slugger award in 2012 when he hit a career-high 27 home runs.

Brian Walton’s take: Despite Pierzynski’s well-documented history of being a disliked player, don’t expect him to become the next Will Clark. He cannot hold a candle to Yadier Molina defensively, is 37 years old and on a downhill slide offensively.

On the other hand, he can help the team. In 61 fewer plate appearances than Molina this season, Pierzynski has more runs batted in. His 2014 batting average of .254 is higher than that of Allen Craig and all five players on the Cardinals bench.

A free agent to-be this fall, Pierzynski should be motivated to re-establish his market value for 2015 after signing with Boston for $8.25 million this season. The Cardinals are likely only paying a pro-rated portion of the major league minimum salary with the Red Sox on the hook for the majority.

The Cardinals have 10 days to decide the next step for Kottaras. A release is most likely unless he is claimed again.

Since St. Louis claimed him off waivers from Cleveland on July 11, the 31-year-old appeared in four games, going 1-for-5 with a walk in six plate appearances.

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