The White Sox were interested in keeping Youkilis and have the same feeling for Pierzynski, but the price tag for both was and is too high. Even with Youkilis out of the picture, the White Sox still don’t figure to have the resources to keep Pierzynski.
Taking into account the new three-year, $12 million deal for infielder Jeff Keppinger, while also factoring in the salaries the club’s arbitration-eligible players will earn, the White Sox are already pushing the $109-million mark they were paying out to players at the end of last season.
Asked at last week’s winter meetings if the White Sox are prepared to move past that threshold in the 2013 season, general manager Rick Hahn suggested the club’s budget prevented a considerable increase over the 2012 payroll.
That figures to leave Pierzynski on the outside looking in when it comes to a new deal with the White Sox. His ability to handle a pitching staff and his offensive resurgence last season is expected to land him a one- or two-year deal the White Sox wouldn’t be able to match.
That doesn’t mean the White Sox have resigned themselves to their fate. They continue to keep in contact with Pierzynski’s agent, Steve Hilliard, but are prepared to move on with Tyler Flowers as their starter behind the plate.
Hahn was asked about Pierzynski during a conference call Monday.
“We are better served by not providing conversation-by-conversation or blow-by-blow updates on how the talks are going other than saying we’re in regular contact and the dialogue has been very open and honest from our perspective about expectations and fits,” Hahn said. “We would expect it to continue in that vein until there is a resolution one way or another.”
While the White Sox feel that Flowers can be every bit the defensive catcher Pierzynski has been, there are some areas on offense that are cause for concern, especially with him in the same lineup as Adam Dunn.
“That could increase our strikeout rate a little bit if Tyler is getting more playing time behind the plate so that was definitely one of the things we were looking at,” Hahn said.
The return of Pierzynski would definitely solve the White Sox’s need for a left-handed bat to provide lineup balance, but unless they clear out some salary space on the current roster, Flowers’ time figures to be near.
“Tyler is going to get on base and he’s going to hit with some power,” Hahn said. “He’s going to strike out a lot more than A.J., and his batting average is going to probably be lower, but he’s still going to be a pretty solid offensive player, and I think better than what you saw in 2012 because it’s tough with sporadic playing time as a young player.”