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12/18/12 5:50 PM ET
Pursuing catcher, Texas talks to Pierzynski's reps
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers spent Tuesday addressing their catching situation by talking with free agent A.J. Pierzynski and his representatives about the possibility of playing in Arlington.
Texas is also exploring signing free-agent outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher as a way to reinforce their offense after the departure of Josh Hamilton. But catching seems to be a priority for the Rangers as the offseason moves past the halfway point.
The Rangers re-signed catcher Geovany Soto after non-tendering him at the end of November. But the 2008 National League Rookie of the Year who was acquired from the Cubs on July 30 hit just .198 in 2012, with 11 home runs and 39 RBIs in 99 total games. He also threw out just 13 of 65 (20 percent) attempted basestealers.
Pierzynski, who turns 36 on Dec. 30, is coming off his best season, hitting .278 with 27 home runs and 77 RBIs for the White Sox. His .827 OPS was the highest of his career since he started playing regularly for the Twins in 2001. He also threw out just 19 of 76 (20 percent) attempted basestealers. He was Chicago's starting catcher on its 2005 World Series championship team.
The left-handed-hitting Pierzynski batted .287 with a .536 slugging percentage against right-handed pitching in 2012. Soto is a right-handed hitter, so the two could end up in a platoon situation.
Pierzynski is looking for a multi-year contract, and the Rangers don't have a young catcher ready to take over in the next couple of years. Their top catching prospect is Jorge Alfaro, 19, who was at Class A Hickory this past season.
Pierzynski had some ill-feelings toward Rangers manager Ron Washington last July when he was left off the All-Star team. But the exchange also showed how Washington feels about Pierzynski as a player. After the American League All-Star team was announced, Washington said he felt bad that Pierzynski wasn't selected.
"The guy's having an outstanding year," Washington said at the time. "He's been working with a very good pitching staff over there with those Chicago White Sox for many years. I consider him a winning player because he beats you any kind of way he can. He beats you mentally, he beats you physically. So I feel really bad for Pierzynski."
Pierzynski, who has been known to be outspoken, replied by saying, "If he felt that bad, he would have put me on the team. He had an opportunity to and he didn't do it. Obviously, he can feel as bad as he wants, but he didn't feel that bad."
Pierzynski is known to have an abrasive personality that often irritates the opposition. But it's likely that Washington and Pierzynski would be able to smooth out any differences if the two sides can work out an acceptable contract. The Rangers are thin in catching depth behind Soto, and they claimed Eli Whiteside off waivers last week. Whiteside, Luis Martinez and Konrad Schmidt represent the depth behind Soto at this point.
Swisher, who is being pursued hard by the Indians, is of interest to the Rangers because he is a switch-hitter who can play first base or one of the corner outfield spots. He hit .273 with 24 home runs, 93 RBIs and a .473 slugging percentage this past season for the Yankees. For his career, he is averaging 28 home runs and 90 RBIs every 162 games. He also has a career .361 on-base percentage and a .467 slugging percentage.
Swisher is currently in the process of meeting with potential teams. He is viewed as the best middle-of-the-order offensive player left on the free-agent market now that Hamilton signed with the Angels.
Both Swisher and Pierzynski hit from the left side. The Rangers are looking for left-handed power in a lineup dominated by right-handed hitters Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz and Elvis Andrus. David Murphy and Mitch Moreland are Texas' most proven left-handed hitters. Murphy and Cruz are both free agents after this upcoming season.