Tyler Flowers had better be good.
If not, one of the first major decisions of Rick Hahn's tenure as general manager could be more of a black eye on the resume than the smooth transition it has been touted to be.
The Chicago White Sox let A.J. Pierzynski walk into free agency, right into a new deal with the Texas Rangers that will pay him $7.5 million next season. And according to Pierzynski, the Sox did so with very little resistance offered up.
"It was really one of those things that just never seemed like it was going to work out," Pierzynski said on a conference call after the Texas signing was made official. "It just seemed like they made some calls, but it never got to the point where it was, 'Hey, let's move on something.'
"At the same time, am I disappointed? Any time you've been eight years in a place, you'd love to go back, and I'd like to have finished my career there. But I'm excited and looking forward to a new place and a new challenge. I wish those (in Chicago) nothing but the best."
If Pierzynski was somewhat disappointed, that's nothing compared to a Sox fan base that made Pierzynski almost a cult hero on the South Side. Not only did the fortunes change for the Sox immediately when they brought Pierzynski over from the Twins and then Giants prior to the 2005 World Series run, but Pierzynski had a hatred for the cross-town rival Cubs that Sox fans embraced.
Pierzynski so irritated the Cubs in his eight years with the Sox that former North Side catcher Michael Barrett punched him back in the 2006 season, after a play at the plate. He was always the needle in the side of opposing teams, and Sox fans loved that about him.
Hahn had two major decisions sitting on the table for him when he took over. He addressed the first, re-signing pitcher Jake Peavy to a two-year, $29 million deal. Pierzynski was the other one, especially coming off a season in which he had a career-high 27 homers and 77 RBI.
"We felt we had more pressing needs that need to be addressed," Hahn said. "We wanted our pitching staff to be one of our strengths, so we felt we had to bring Jake Peavy back."
Board chairman Jerry Reinsdorf often stays clear of voicing an opinion on free agents, but even he put a statement out concerning Pierzynski.
"A.J. will forever be appreciated and remembered by White Sox fans as a very special member of this franchise," Reinsdorf said. "He earned that spot in our hearts. I personally wish A.J. the very best with the Rangers and with the rest of his career. I suspect U.S. Cellular Field will be one ballpark where A.J. Pierzynski will never be booed. He's earned our cheers."
What is really confusing about the decision is the Sox have insisted they needed a left-handed bat, but yet a good one in Pierzynski's walk. Also, Flowers might be better defensively, as far as shutting down the running game for the opposition, but the offense will take a huge hit with Flowers in there on a regular basis.