After striking out in their pursuit of the market's biggest targets, the Texas Rangers finally landed a free agent on Thursday.
The player in question is catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who will be joining the team on a one-year deal. The contract was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and later seconded by T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com.
While Pierzysnki's arrival won't have the impact that Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton or Justin Upton would have carried to Arlington, his presence could pay relative dividends for the Rangers. Pierzynski is coming off a career year in which he hit .278/.326/.501 with 27 homers and 77 RBIs for the Chicago White Sox and bats left-handed. That feature should come in handy for the Rangers, who just saw Josh Hamilton's left-handed bat head toward Anaheim. Pierzynski will also undoubtedly be called upon to DH on his "off" days.
Texas also now has the market cornered on ex-Chicago catchers as they re-signed Geovany Soto after acquiring him midseason from the Cubs.
Which catcher sees a majority of the starts will depend on whether Pierzynski can post anything close to what he did in 2012. He'll turn 36 on Dec. 30 and the crop of catchers who have posted late-career numbers like that is a short one. No one's expecting Pierzynski to reach those levels again, though he can still be valuable to Texas if he posts another healthy season and appears in his usual 130 games or so. (Pierzynski hasn't spent significant time on the DL since becoming a full-time catcher in 2002.)
One big plus: He's already quite familiar with one of the Rangers' biggest fans:
Pierzynski signing with Texas is guaranteed to cause more than a few walks down memory lane on Chicago's South Side. Pierzynski spent eight seasons behind the plate for the White Sox, becoming a fan favorite after helping the team to a World Series win in his first year. His heads-up play against the Angels in Game 2 of the 2005 ALCS turned that series around for the White Sox and he permanently earned a spot in the hearts of White Sox fans after his pursuit of home plate caused Cubs catcher Michael Barrett to sock him in the face in 2006.
Pierzynski hit .279/.318/.424 with 118 homers and 460 RBIs over his eight seasons with the White Sox. And that's not to say his time at U.S. Cellular Field is over. If he doesn't return for one season in the future, his World Series work with Fox puts him in prime position to become a Chicago media personality once his career is done.