Buck deal improves Pierzynski's prospects

But declining arbitration after a market-shaking deal doesn't always guarantee a big payday. Just ask Orlando Cabrera.

After the conclusion of the 2008 season, Kenny Williams had to decide whether to offer arbitration to Type A free agent Orlando Cabrera. It was a more complicated decision that most anticipated.
The White Sox traded Jon Garland for Cabrera two weeks after re-signing Juan Uribe. It was somewhat confusing, because all of a sudden, Williams had two shortstops, two third basemen and little else. Cabrera did represent two draft picks, though, and Garland did not, so that much made sense.
When he showed up to spring training, the media asked both sides about an extension. It seemed like it could happen; Cabrera held the reputation of being one of the leaguer’s headier players and strongest leaders, which would make him a perfect on-field general for his former shortstop manager.
Both sides had no problem letting the 2008 season play out. The generally accepted plan:

  1. Cabrera would have a fine season and give the Sox what they needed.
  2. The Sox would offer arbitration, and make a cursory effort to re-sign him.
  3. Cabrera would sign a bigger deal elsewhere.
  4. The Sox would take the picks.

Cabrera completed the first step. His offensive numbers lagged a little across the board, but he played a steady shortstop and helped the Sox win the AL Central.
Alas, the relationship between Cabrera and the rest of the Sox was strained at best after Cabrera called the press box to change a scoring decision in May, and Ozzie Guillen called him out. The media (mainly Joe Cowley) enjoyed picking at him, Jermaine Dye (wrongly) screamed at him for stealing third in a dugout dispute, and he ripped his teammates for playing weak-hearted baseball down the stretch.
Underneath it all, the United States economy slid into recession it has yet to escape. Combine the down market with the acrimony, and offering Cabrera arbitration had previously unforeseen risks.
The White Sox had no plans for him, and they let him know as much. They penciled in Alexei Ramirez at shortstop for 2009 by early November and let Cabrera know he would be a bench player if he returned, and he’d make for one costly utility infielder. Two Mark Teahens, to be exact.
Williams bet that Cabrera disliked the Sox as much as the Sox disliked him. They offered him arbitration on deadline day (Dec. 2), and waited for Cabrera’s decision. He likely would have made $9 million, if not more, had he accepted arbitration, which would have been more lucrative than elsewhere, at least for the 2009 season. His Type A status, as well as the down economy, limited his marketability.
But in the five-day window when Cabrera had to make a decision, Edgar Renteria signed a two-year, $18.5 million contract with the San Francisco Giants on Dec. 4.
Renteria played the same position as Cabrera, and while he’s 21 months younger, he was coming off a far worse 2008 season for the Detroit Tigers. And on top of that, Cabrera and Renteria did not care much for each other due a Colombian business deal gone bad.
An athlete is already competitive. Add in an off-the-field rivalry, and there was no way Cabrera was going to settle for a lesser contract and a lesser role when he had a better year. He declined arbitration, and the White Sox received the draft picks.
Little did he know that Brian Sabean misread the shortstop market like Williams did the relief market when he signed Scott Linebrink for $19 million the year before. Demand dried up until fears that Sabean set the prices failed to materialized. Cabrera had to wait until March to sign with the Oakland Athletics, whose first-round draft pick was protected. It was for one year and $4 million.
One year later, he signed with the Cincinnati Reds for $3 million. So he still hasn’t made the $9ish million he would have earned if he accepted arbitration.
************************************
I was reminded of Cabrera’s cautionary tale when I saw that John Buck reportedly agreed to a three-year, $18 million deal with the Florida Marlins on Tuesday.
Pierzynski’s in a similar boat. Just like Cabrera, there are legitimate reasons why Pierzynski should accept arbitration if offered. He’s a Type A, which will restrict his market to teams that can bear losing a first- (or second-) round pick. He’s the most durable of the remaining catchers and has the lengthiest track record, but if the bottom falls out like it did for shortstops two years ago, he could have to settle for half of the $6 million he’d make through arbitration.
Still, I think this Buck contract has the power to drastically alter his financial weltanschauung.
There’s no doubt Buck had a superior 2010. He set personal bests in plate appearances (437), batting average (.281), slugging percentage (.489), doubles (25), homers (20), RBI (66), WAR (2.9) and wOBA (.345). All top Pierzynski’s 2010 output easily with exception of plate appearances.
He also set a career-high in OBP last season, but that’s not worth bragging about.
It was .314, a number Pierzynski has topped in seven of his last 10 seasons.
Pierzynski gets plenty of (well-deserved) grief for his happy hacking, and it resulted in a career-worst OBP  of .300 in 2010. Guess what, though — add a point to it, and you have Buck’s career OBP. Both catchers also posted walk rates below 4 percent, and Buck struck out 116 times to Pierzynski’s 39.
Buck has a higher ceiling and 3 1/2 years of age in his favor. He also has an inferior track record and the same fatal flaws, which is why the reactions to the deal could be most charitably described as disbelief.
Dan Szymborski at Baseball Think Factory:

Florida Marlins – Signed C John Buck to a 3-year, $6 million contract.
For the prices, what’s not to like? Buck’s an average-ish catcher with pop but is ordinary defensively and makes too many outs but for $2 million a year, you can’t expect to get…WHAT?! That’s $6 million per season for John Buck? A 3-year, $18 million for friggin’ John Buck?
I think I liked the Marlins better when they refused to spend any money. Did Jeff Loria get access to TARP funds? Or is he working for the Pentagon? I’d rather spend $10,000 for a toilet than $18,000,000 for John Buck.
Hey, Marlins, for $5 million, I’d defecate in your mailbox, which would still leave $13 million, more than enough to get a better catcher than John Buck.

Other reactions:

So now that Buck and Hernandez are off the market, only Miguel Olivo — who has just one postseason plate appearance, and grounded into a double play with it —  looks even moderately appealing amid the glut of low-OBP catchers (Victor Martinez ain’t affecting this market). If you need an alpha dog behind the plate, Pierzynski is the only one who fits the bill.
************************************
We’ve debated at length about whether the Sox should offer arbitration to Pierzynski. It’s fitting (and awesome) that the decision split our offseason planners right down the midde — eight for, eight against.
I’ve been on the fence myself, but the Buck contract is the tipping point for me. The White Sox should offer arbitration, because Pierzynski’s camp has to be thinking about a multi-year deal now.
That’s not to say he’ll get one, and that’s why I started with the lengthy preamble about Cabrera’s situation. Pierzynski is a Type A, Pierzynski has peers, and he could be on the outside looking in when spring training starts.
But, like I said, athletes are competitive, and they want respect. Pierzynski and Buck played in the same division for five years, and Pierzynski was better in four of them. Maybe he can’t get Buck money, but he has to be thinking he’s in the same league, and thus deserving of a minimum of two years.
OK, perhaps there’s a slight possibility that Pierzynski might be happy with one year and $5-6 million. I’m just not seeing it. That would go against how athletes (and agents) usually regard these markets, and it also wouldn’t jive with the way Pierzynski sniped at anybody who suggested the Sox needed help at the position.
It is a gamble to offer arbitration, but it’s one worth taking, because I think Pierzynski’s going to take the gamble on his end. Maybe he’ll end up getting screwed in the deal, but  hey — it wouldn’t be the first time John Buck hit a White Sox where it hurts. Maybe Gordon Beckham can try to burp him this time.
************************************
Arizona Fall League:

  • Friday: Scottsdale 6, Peoria 4
    • Jared Mitchell went 0-for-3 with a strikeout, but also walked and stole two bases.
    • Eduardo Escobar went 1-for-5 with an RBI and a strikeout.
    • Anthony Carter pitched a scoreless inning, striking out one and allowing a hit.
  • Saturday: Phoenix 8, Peoria 1 (7 innings)
    • Escobar went 0-for-3 with a strikeout.
    • Mitchell drew a walk over two plate appearances.
    • Johnnie Lowe allowed four runs on four hits and three walks over three innings, striking out three.
  • Monday: Scottsdale 9, Peoria 4
    • Escobar went 1-for-4 with a triple, an RBI and two strikeouts.
    • Mitchell went hitless in three at-bats, striking out twice.
  • Tuesday: Peoria Javelinas 15, Peoria Saguaros 2
    • Charles Leesman: 1 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HR
    • Mitchell repeated his Monday line.
    • Escobar went 0-for-2 with a walk.
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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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sars

and what do you know…a video full of lol’s ends in a one pitch pop out by none other than AJP.
while i agree that offering arbitration is a good idea…please, AJ, get the hell out of this city.

buford

I agree that the Sox offer AJ arbitration.
If Detroit signs Martinez as anticipated, AJ and Texas seem like a fit since Texas had interest in AJ earlier this year. If Texas loses Lee to NYY, they acquire NYY’s 1st round pick which offsets their lost pick for AJ.
If not Texas, then a team that would only lose its 2nd round pick (because its 1st round draft pick is protected) could make an offer.
Regarding AJ’s value which will determine whether a team will offer him a multi-year contract (as if Buck’s contract wasn’t enough), I reprint my post from yesterday:
An excerpt from an Oct. 17, 2010 Boston.com article:
A.J. Pierzynski, C, free agent — There’s a new-found love in the market for Pierzynski, though he will be rated behind Victor Martinez and John Buck among available catchers (Bengie Molina is out there as well). Buck had his best offensive season and is considered a high-character player who could hit for some power. One of the knocks on him is his “long’’ arm action and swing.
“You could do worse then either Buck or A.J.,’’ said a veteran National League scout. “With A.J., you know he’s not going to throw people out, but there’s nothing wrong with his receiving and he can still hit. I know the fire he has can rub people the wrong way, but I think that’s great for a team.’’

onlysoxfaninboston

nice summary jim. assuming the sox offer arbitration and aj declines, what are our options then? rely on castro/flowers or go after olivo?

striker

FYI, teams have until 11/23 to offer arbitration. Players have until 11/30 to accept.

johnsorc

Wow, didn’t see that coming… even though my offseason plan didn’t have them offering arb to AJ, I agree that you have to now.

knoxfire30

People are reading this thing the complete wrong way.
1. Buck got overpaid, that doesnt make AJ better at baseball, if buck got 5 years 60 mil, would aj be worth 3 years 30 mil… thats not how it works.
2. Buck signing with Florida eliminates 1 of maybe only 2 or 3 teams that has any interest in AJ, that drives his price down.
3. O-Cab has been twice the player AJ has been.
4. Im really glad we didnt sign Buck to that contract.

knoxfire30

Interesting comments from KW, about not expecting Peavy back til May… cant say I like the sound of that. Hopefully he meant more of the “we arent counting on him til May” as oppose to him being actually behind schedule.

knoxfire30

I get that aspect of it, but why does AJ think he is vastly superior to ramon henandez? His peer got 1 year 3 million.

knoxfire30

these debates keep going in circles durability is relatively meaningless when everyone and their brother thinks aj should play less games and castro more gaems, ESPECIALLY vs left hand pitching
the numbers dont lie
i love aj for all has he done, now im starting to resent him because of people putting him on this elite pedestal because of the 05 season, aj is below average at just about everything except staying healthy which of course is practically a negative when ozzie runs him out their vs lefties for no apparent reason!
i hope he signs with some immediately and we can put this behind us

David

I think the Buck contract will be an abberation for offseason catcher deals. V-Mart will see good money but not great length (3-4 years?). Everyone else is 1-2 year offer types.
Buck is 4 years younger than Pierzynski. That may have been a major factor for Florida’s Teahen-esque overpay. Weren’t they in the same trade to KC? How poetic…
I’m still using Ramon Hernandez as a comp for AJ. I don’t think the Sox can afford to pay $6-7 million to a catcher for that production.
The Type A designation would severely depress AJ’s market in my opinion. I would still not offer arb.

soxfan1

Get ready for a year of Castro and Flowers. UGH!!!!

bigfun

Shortstop Eduardo Escobar (White Sox) didn’t do anything at the plate but looked good in the field. No single play stood out; he just seemed to get to grounders without exerting much effort. You’d look up and the play was done. Then you’d look back at where he started and think, huh.
link

Chris Pummer

Buck has always reminded me of Ron Karkovice with a lesser defensive rep.
Last year I advocated offering Octavio Dotel arbitration because of the potential draft pick payout, plus if he had accepted, he’d neither be useless nor a payroll killer.
I think the case with Pierzynski this year is even more cut-and-dried. About $5-6 million might be a little bit of an overpay, but it’s hard to go too terribly wrong with a one-year deal. Especially when the alternatives include going with someone who might not be able to produce with full-time work for one reason or another (Flowers, Castro), or paying $3-4 million anyway to bring another guy into the fold.
The White Sox might not have the financial might of the Yankees or Red Sox, but they’re not the Padres or Marlins either. with draft picks at stake, any gamble at this price for a player who is still very useful is one worth taking.

stopdrop8

MLBtraderumors is blowing up with justin upton trade speculation. Any chance the sox get involved? What would it take to get it done?

striker

Edwin Jackson

Shinons

Ha! Nicely done.

David

I don’t see any way the Sox have the assets to pull that off. But gosh, it would be an ideal move in so many ways for them.
Beckham would be the starting point. Sale can’t be traded until mid-year. Mitchell is coming off an injury. Everyone else stinks.
Do we have a Top 50 prospect in MLB? I doubt it. Top 100? Maybe.

Chris Pummer

B.J. Upton seems like a more realistic target than Justin.

stopdrop8

They suggested that logan morrison and ricky nolasco would be enough for the marlins to get it done.. What about danks and viciedo?

knoxfire30

danks is far too valuable to trade, not sure when people are going to come to the realize that its real hard to pitch in the AL, its even harder to do it when half your games are at the cell, and that to do it from the left side is amazingly valuable,
ricky nolasco, OVER-RATED, about a 4.50 career era in the NL in a pitchers park, blah

bigfun

Who suggested Morrison and Nolasco? For Upton? Because that’s nuts.
It would take several top 50 prospects to get Upton. But Arizona has very little incentive to trade him. He’s not going anywhere.

knoxfire30

exactly

sars

i guess they would require more, but morrison showed some damn good BB% in his stint last season and nolasco is routinely a SABR-darling. i don’t think that would be worth it, but those are both major league contributors in 2011 and probably 3-4 win players, at that.

stopdrop8

I’m not saying I would do it or think the marlins will. Here’s the link:
http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2010/11/justin-upton-rumors-wednesday.html

bigfun

That’s fine, just saying it’s an unnamed exec via a tabloid … so basically a meaningless rumor.
The first bullet in that list sounds a lot more believable. Four to five players, with three major-league ready.

knoxfire30

keeping up with rumors, sox have talked with soriano, dunn, and matsui now and apparently are open to trading gavin floyd, (not sure why especially after hearing kenny williams say peavy wont be back til may)
sox signed dallas mcpherson so charlotte just got better!

bigfun

Kind of like McPherson as a no-risk acquisition. Obviously his health has made him a non-factor thus far, but he has real power.

knoxfire30

this might be a stretch but im gonna say it anyways, the only difference between mcpherson and teahen is 10 million dollars owed!

bigfun

Teahen career slugging:
minors .424 majors .415
McPherson career slugging:
minors .580 majors .458
McPherson probably won’t make a difference for the Sox, but comparing him to Teahen seems a little harsh.

knoxfire30

im actually surprised, these numbers show he is basically better then teahen, k’s aside if both these guys were brought in on minor league contracts mcpherson would actually have a shot at stealing teahens roster spot, unfortunately thats not going to be the case a la mike macdougal and compounding a mistake!

ricksch

I think Jim’s idea is sound. I just hope like hell AJ declines. If AJ leaves, I don’t think we’d see any appreciable dropoff with Castro/Olivo and the team would have more coin to play with.
However, for the love of the 12 Greek gods, let’s have Flowers actually earn a spot on the roster, especially if Morel is seriously being considered at 3rd. I mean, how many flyers do you take on the new blood at the same time? Unless we don’t expect this team to contend, in which case, write Flowers into the line-up and let’s back up the truck and trade away as many big contracts as we can. Flowers still might becomes a good catcher in the bigs. But he needs to play more and catcher is a position that can take longer than some others to learn.
The delay on Peavy is a huge concern. Hell, even if Peavy was deemed to be ready on opening day he’s a huge concern. As much as you can put last season on one player, Peavy’s loss was the killer. Adding a huge insult to injury, it led to Williams making one of his worst-ever deals, Jackson for Hudson. If our alledged strength last year, starting pitching, once again runs a cropper, the season’s in the crapper.

buford

“With A.J., … there’s nothing wrong with his receiving and he can still hit…”
– Veteran National League scout
“… aj is below average at just about everything except staying healthy… ”
When a differing opinion from a ML scout is staring you in the face, it takes a lot of impudence to make the above statement.
It’s troubling how some people will not alter their opinion one iota when confronted with a contrasting opinion especially one from a professional. It’s as if they truly believe others will blindly fall in lockstep with their opinion over the professional opinion.
Worse yet, they continue with their chest-thumping, repetitive ramblings backed by blanket rationalizations with a few cherry-picked stats tossed in for good measure.
But in the end, this type of disconnected, one-sided analysis has a use – as a great cure for insomnia.

bigfun

I’m not as bearish on A.J. as Knox is, but the opinions of this unnamed (and thus unaccountable) scout (who has seen this AL catcher how many times?) should not obfuscate the fact that there are considerable risks with A.J. And “nothing wrong with his receiving” and “can still hit” are not exactly the strongest endorsements.

buford

“unnamed (and thus unaccountable)”
I’m sure it didn’t take you long to come up with this
rationalization. See how conveniently it fits your position?
“who has seen this AL catcher how many times”
Enough times for this veteran scout to form an opinion of AJ.
“not exactly the strongest endorsements”
Nice try at spinning the scout’s comments. No one should view them as ringing endorsements just positive endorsements.
Catchers with good, but not great skills, are always in demand especially starting catchers. And considering the dearth of talent at this premium position, teams will pay a premium for a decent catcher. If durability is also a positive in this physically challenging position, better yet.
“considerable risks with AJ”
Why don’t you juxtapose these “considerable risks” with the scout’s comments and explain your reasons for the difference in opinions. Otherwise, you’re just talking in generalizations.

bigfun

I’m sure it didn’t take you long to come up with this rationalization. See how conveniently it fits your position?
How is this a “rationalization”? The scout isn’t named. An unnamed source is less reliable than a named source.
Why don’t you juxtapose these “considerable risks” with the scout’s comments and explain your reasons for the difference in opinions. Otherwise, you’re just talking in generalizations.
Sure. A.J. is an OK-offense/mediocre defense-catcher entering the stage of his career where catchers typically decline. He is highly durable and would be a good fit on a one- or two-year deal on a team where catcher was a major need. I agree with the scout that he receives fine and can still hit well enough to compete at the MLB level.

buford

“An unnamed source is less reliable than a named source.”
1-If this same unnamed scout had called AJ the worst catcher in baseball today, not only would the anti-AJ faction take it as gospel, it would serve as the basis for numerous columns/threads throughout baseball especially in Chicago.
2-Teams do not want their scouts going public with their opinions but can live with the anonymous statements.
How do you think the “experts” at well-known baseball publications get their information? They get it anonymously from scouts. The “experts” then pass it along and it eventually evolves into their opinions. The scouts do the dirty work but seldom get more than “a scout I talked to said…” reference.
I’m sure you’ve read these articles especially on prospects. They all have the same catch phrases and recycled analysis.
FWIW, if you’re interested in first-rate, first-hand analysis, check out Baseball Beginnings by John Klima. You will see the difference in analysis immediately. His article on MLB’s “scout school” was one of the informative articles I ever read.
I assume you can tell that the scout/”expert” relationship is a real hot button for me.
“He is highly durable and would be a good fit on a one- or two-year deal on a team where catcher was a major need. I agree with the scout that he receives fine and can still hit well enough to compete at the MLB level.”
Thanks

bigfun

1-If this same unnamed scout had called AJ the worst catcher in baseball today, not only would the anti-AJ faction take it as gospel, it would serve as the basis for numerous columns/threads throughout baseball especially in Chicago.
I’m sure some people would, and I would disagree with that approach.
How do you think the “experts” at well-known baseball publications get their information? They get it anonymously from scouts.
It’s a big part of it, and it’s a valuable resource, but they combine it with other sources of information. That’s one of the places where statistical analysis is really handy for complementing scouting analysis that doesn’t tell the whole story on its own.
FWIW, if you’re interested in first-rate, first-hand analysis, check out Baseball Beginnings by John Klima.
cool, will do

buford

RE: Baseball Beginnings
If your looking for Sox articles, there is a Nov 13th piece under “AZ Instructs-Part3” about Sox OF Trayce Thompson and an Oct.2nd interview with Chris Sale.