Going in to the offseason, questions concerning the catching position were at the forefront of many fans' minds. With AJ Pierzynski seemingly destined to head to an American League living out the twilight of his playing career with the benefit of the DH, many fans and pundits alike wondered if the Braves were really going to let Christian Bethancourt have another shot at grabbing the starting catching spot given his struggles last season both offensively and defensively. With the free agent market thin on starting quality catchers other than Matt Wieters (who would cost a pick and a bunch of money) and the trade market benefitting sellers when it comes to catchers, it was certainly a tough problem to solve.
Well, as it turns out, we should not have assumed that AJ was pre-destined to head to AL after all.
Sources: Free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski returning to #Braves. Deal pending a physical.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 11, 2015
Pierzynski agreed to one-year deal. He started 104 games at catcher last season at age 38, batting .300 with a .769 OPS for the #Braves.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 11, 2015
The terms of the deal have not been disclosed as of yet, but AJ was certainly a pleasant surprise from a production standpoint so its no surprise that the Braves wanted him back. In addition to having some meaningful production on the offensive side (despite some deficiencies on defense), the Braves may be so intent on bringing AJ back because they feel as though AJ could be a positive influence on Bethancourt going forward.
Early in the offseason, several Braves officials indicated that they wanted AJ back, but were worried that AL teams would offer more money than they could to AJ for his services. It appears as though that either wasn't the case, the Braves made an stronger offer than they indicated, or AJ simply wanted to have another year in Atlanta to help develop the young roster while having a chance to stay at catcher.
**UPDATE: 8:23 PM EST**
AJ's deal reportedly for one year at $3 million
Pierzynski turned down more money from other clubs to re-sign with #Braves, source says. Spends spring training at home in Orlando.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 12, 2015