Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has reported today that the Boston Red Sox have signed catcher A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year deal, worth upwards of $8 million. The decision to sign Pierzynski likely signals the end of Jarrod Saltalmacchia's catching tenure with the Red Sox; earlier in the offseason, the Red Sox offered Saltalamacchia a two-year deal, which he neglected to put his signature to so there will be a new starting catcher for the club next season.
At least, there will be a new catcher in name. As far as the production that the Red Sox can expect to get out of the catcher position, there will be little change from what the Red Sox received from Saltalamacchia in his first two seasons with the team to how Pierzynski performs next year.
In describing the transition from Saltalamacchia to Pierzynski, one could easily apply the maxim that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Pierzynski is unlikely to impress any of the Red Sox faithful with his fielding next year, owing to his mostly horrendous defense, but at the plate, he should do a serviceable enough job that he will not be responsible for torpedoing the Red Sox offense.
Most of Pierzynski's hitting value, just like Saltalamacchia before him, will be determined by how well he hits with power. Pierzynski will not get hits often or consistently nor will he draw enough walks to boost his on-base percentage to acceptable levels, although it will still be better than the on-base percentage Saltalamacchia was likely to give the team in 2014, but the Red Sox will be hoping that when he does get hits, a good percentage of them will go for extra bases.
Pierzynski might not hit with quite as much power or authority as Saltalamacchia, with Saltalamacchia holding the edge over Pierzynski in career isolated power (.184 to .153), but when everything is factored in, including Saltalamacchia's inevitable regression to the mean after a career year in 2013, the Red Sox are likely to squeeze as much value out of Pierzynski in 2014 as they would have out of Saltalamacchia.
In fact, a 2014 projection forecasts that Pierzynski will be worth 2.1 WAR while Saltalamacchia will be worth 2.9. That minor difference is not significant enough for the Red Sox to worry about losing too much value from the catching position by having to replace Saltalamacchia with Pierzynski, making this signing one which the Red Sox are unlikely to regret.