Contenders aren't just looking at possible trades to improve their rosters ahead of the July 31 deadline, they're also scouring the thin free agent market looking for available talents that fit their specific needs.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis-Post Dispatch, that's what has brought veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski and the St. Louis Cardinals together. The two sides officially agreed to a deal Friday night, and it's expected Pierzynski will be available on Saturday in Chicago.
Pierzynski, 37, was designated for assignment by the Boston Red Sox on July 10 and officially released on July 16 after signing a one-year, $8.25 million deal in December. He hit .254/.286/.348 with four homers and 31 RBIs in 72 games. Not great numbers, but it wasn't just production issues that led to his departure. Shortly after the Red Sox announced his designation, Pierzynski was anonymously ripped by his former Red Sox teammates and labeled a "negative influence."
That type of stuff seems to follow Pierzynski everywhere, which begs the question: How will Pierzynski fit in with a St. Louis Cardinals organization that seemingly prides itself on avoiding drama and steering clear of volatile personalities?
It will be very interesting to see, but it's clear in this case St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak is more concerned about a baseball problem than a character evaluation. With All-Star and MVP candidate Yadier Molina out another 6-10 weeks following thumb surgery, they need an everyday guy who can handle the pitching staff and give them some punch offensively right now.
The Cardinals had been using Tony Cruz and George Kottaras — who was let go ahead of Pierzynski's signing on Friday — to fill in, but Pierzynski should provide an easy upgrade over both, despite his declining skills.
If personality issues pop up, the Cardinals will deal with them as they happen. That said, having a former catcher like Mike Matheny calling the shots and Molina's mere presence in the dugout may help bring the pieces together a little smoother.
There's no guarantee either way, of course, but the Cardinals had to act quick after dropping their fourth straight Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field. They're currently three games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central.
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