Potential Players of Interest: Ryan Hanigan and A.J. Pierzynski | The Process Report

Potential Players of Interest: Ryan Hanigan and A.J. Pierzynski

We’ve covered the outfield and groundball specialist situations, and how veterans with expiring contracts could dictate what the Rays do this winter. Catcher is another position that fits that bill. Whether the Rays will re-sign Jose Molina is to be determined, though it never hurts to explore the alternatives that could be pursued should Tampa Bay move on from its veteran backstop. We’ll take a look at two options here before completing the overview in the coming days.

First up is Ryan Hanigan, who remains under contract with the Reds. The Rays have expressed interest in acquiring Hanigan before, and it’s possible the price tag would be lower now. That’s because Hanigan, 33, is entering his final year of team control after posting career-worst marks across the board.

Like Molina, Hanigan earns his paycheck on the defensive end. He’s one of the game’s best receivers, with a strong understanding of how to use his body and mitt to create better angles for umpires and pitchers. Hanigan is smart about his craft and garners good grades for his staff-handling abilities. A catcher’s caught stealing rate is only as good as his pitching staff allows, but Hanigan’s is excellent thanks in large part to working with pitchers like Johnny Cueto, who shut down the running game on their own. Still, his pop times suggest he’s capable of nabbing thieves when challenged.

Hanigan is more limited at the plate, where he relies on his batting average and on-base percentage to buoy his production. He marries an impressive command of the strike zone with the ability to make contact at will, and he’s always a threat to walk more than he strikes out. Yet not all contact is created equal, and Hanigan has his fair share of poorly struck balls. He’s shown in the past he can sustain a good enough average for his on-base skills to play, which is a must for him heading forward.

It’s unclear if the Reds would move Hanigan, as they have good reason to keep him. Devin Mesoraco, formerly a top-rated prospect, has not blossomed into an everyday catcher. Dusty Baker started Hanigan in the Wild Card Game over Mesoraco, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if new Reds manager Bryan Price favors the veteran as well.

While Hanigan’s availability is up to his team, one catcher set to hit the open market is A.J. Pierzynski. In many ways, Pierzynski is the inverse of Molina and Hanigan; he’s not a good receiver, nor does he have the strongest arm around, instead much of his value is derived from his bat. Although Pierzynski will soon turn 37, he’s seen a late-career spike in home runs, recording two of his three-best seasons over the past two years. His affinities for swinging the bat and pulling the ball haven’t stopped him from posting decent averages throughout his career; neither, for that matter, has a sizable platoon split.

It’s impossible to mention Pierzynski without referencing his antagonistic ways. The Rays have experienced the brunt of them before, having seen him force an interference call in 2008 among other events—Joe Maddon no doubt remembers the 2005 ALCS well. Of course there’s two sides to every story, and Pierzynski’s gamesmanship is as easy to hate from afar as it would be to like from up close. It should be noted, however, that the Rays did not sign Pierzynski in the past despite his lobbying (though some of that likely had to do with the cost).


  1. George Downs wrote:

    Sounds to me that AJ would be a good part time DH and occasional catcher. I believe he’s a left handed hitter, if I’m wrong then forget it!

  2. […] According to Ken Rosenthal, the Rays are set to acquire catcher Ryan Hanigan from the Reds in a potential three-team deal. Hanigan was features as a player of interest in October. […]

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