2014 Red Sox awards roundtable: Pierzynski the biggest free agent bust


Coming off a season that ended in a World Series victory, the Red Sox felt pretty confident with the roster they had in place for 2014. There weren’t too many holes to fill, with the two biggest being replacing Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The signings they made were more complementary pieces, but a few of those didn’t go as planned. Our panel of BSI voters believe that A.J. Pierzynski was the biggest free agent bust, as he received four of the six votes.

Who was the Red Sox biggest free agent bust of 2014?

Drew Peabody: A.J. Pierzynski in a landslide.

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His $8.25 million salary was a quarter of a million more than

Nelson Cruz

, who hit 40 homers for division-winning Baltimore. For that $8.25 million, the Red Sox were saddled with a surly player who refused to adhere to the team philosophy of working counts, repeatedly killing rallies by making outs on first pitches after previous batters had walked. Pierzynski’s pitch framing was some of the worst in the league. His supposed power only amounted to four homers and a .254/.286/.348 batting line. Pierzynski’s release on July 16 led to the defensive wizard Christian Vazquez’ arrival at Fenway, probably a month too late. The Red Sox brass’ reluctance to cut ties with Pierzynski (and his bloated salary, a sunk cost) and bring Vazquez up was part of the reason the Red Sox were never able to sustain momentum, burying themselves in a hole out of which they were unable to emerge in a season where 90 wins would have put them in the playoffs.

Conor Duffy: A.J. Pierzynski. Also my pick for the team’s Least Valuable Player yesterday, Pierzynski slots in as the biggest free agent bust. Expectations weren’t even very high for him at the beginning of the season, simply expecting him to deliver a solid return on a 1 year/$8.25M contract. However, he was horrible as he slashed just .254/.286/.348 in addition to his clubhouse apathy and generally negative influence on the team. Pierzynski was just not meant for Boston and that’s evident from his July designation for assignment.

Rick McNair: A.J. Pierzynski. If you can’t catch you better hit. A.J. did not. Sometimes it is a good thing to listen to the verbal resume that follows a player around. In the case of A.J. it was a negative albatross hung around his ego-inflated head. The Mike Lansing of catchers.

Ryan Hathaway: A.J. Pierzynski. How in the world do I choose just one? Mujica gets a pass for his end of the season results; this leaves us with four players who did not even finish with the team, all of them performing atrociously. Capuano had a surreal start and then a rapid drop to mediocrity before ultimately becoming unusable out of the pen and waived. Stephen Drew is Stephen Drew. The team wasn’t even sure they wanted him back but decided to give him a shot which he promptly squandered. He’s a contender but he’s not my choice. I really truly want to say Grady Sizemore. He won the starting center field job out of camp and got all of our hopes up before quickly trailing off both offensively and defensively. He is my pick of the player who screwed this team the most, but not the biggest bust. That of course leaves A.J. Pierzynski, who speaks for himself. He singlehandedly ruined one of the most special clubhouse atmospheres that I have seen in pro sports over the last decade-plus. He played a terrible backstop, and oh yeah, didn’t do the one thing he came here to: hit. Bust, bust, BUST.

Joe Meehan: Stephen Drew. I’m counting Drew under the free agent category because of his midseason signing, and I gave him my Least Valuable Player award, so it’s only fitting that he gets biggest free agent bust. He came in and was abysmal at the plate, which made the $10 million he was being paid pretty hard to swallow. Pierzynski was certainly a contender in this category, but I don’t think he was even close to Drew’s bust-level.

Sean Sylver: Grady Sizemore. This is less of a knock on Sizemore and more of a haymaker at Ben Cherington. A nearly 6 WAR player in Jacoby Ellsbury departs and Cherington’s response is a $750,000, incentive-laden scrap heap claim on a guy who had been completely out of baseball for two years? It could have been a nice story, but World Series winners should leave that stuff to second division teams. After an Opening Day home run, he plummeted to .216/.288/.324. Backup plan? Jackie Bradley at .198/.265/.266. The Red Sox outfield was dead before the ship even sank.