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Offering AJ Arbitration No Slam Dunk

by Mike DePilla
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
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Today is the deadline for teams to offer arbitration to free agents, and the Sox are faced with four decisions.

Three of these are no brainers:
  1. Paul Konerko will be offered arbitration, even if the Sox are on the fence about bringing him back.
  2. JJ Putz will be offered arbitration, and the Sox surely want to bring him back.
  3. Unless Ricardo Montalban (or Scott Boras) has a Reggie Jackson-like brainwashing watch planted around the wrist of Ken Williams, Manny Ramirez will not be offered arbitration.
Then there's the one difficult decision: should/will the Sox offer arbitration to catcher AJ Pierzynski?

The perfect scenario, of course, is for the Sox to offer Pierzynski arbitration only to see him decline it, netting the team two draft picks next summer if he signs elsewhere.

But are we sure he would decline it?

Pierzynski earned $6.25 in 2010, and would surely get a raise through the arbitration process should he accept. Sure, the two draft picks would be nice for the Sox, but they're just as nice for the prospective team that might sign AJ- nice enough that the team in question wouldn't want to surrender them for a soon-to-be-34-year-old catcher with so-so skills coming off a down year.

From Pierzynski's perspective, he's sure to prefer a longer-term deal over a one-year contract, and John Buck's crazy three-year, $18 million deal with the Marlins would seem to help his chances. But would he really turn down ~$7 million from the Sox? That's what he'd receive, approximately, through arbitration, and it figures to be the highest annual salary he could earn, even given a run on the open market.

If he accepts, it would blast to smithereens any wiggle room the Sox have payroll-wise for free agents going into 2011. It would almost certainly mean bye-bye to Paulie, and it might necessitate a trade of someone else to clear salary as well.

The Sox have been tentative with arbitration before (David Riske comes to mind, as well as the sweating of bullets over Orlando Cabrera) and, though the draft picks would be nice, the payroll situation is more dire and thus I would not be surprised at all to see that they didn't offer it to AJ this afternoon. We'll find out in a matter of hours.

******

In other news, the Sox claimed wild fireballer Waldis Joaquin, a 23-year-old relief pitcher, off waivers from the San Francisco Giants; and Ozzie Guillen likes tailgating but was "very confused" about recent trade rumors linking him to the Marlins.

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