A.J. Pierzynski approaching rare territory for catchers

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Despite his remarkable consistency and durability, A.J. Pierzynski was unable to secure a multiyear deal again this winter. After spending 2013 with the Rangers, he’s joining the Red Sox on another one-year pact.

Working against Pierzynski is his age and throwing arm. Pierzynski turns 37 later this month, and he’s never been great at gunning down would-be basestealers. However, age seems to have hardly taken any toll on his game so far, and the arm alone is just a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to grading catchers.

That’s not to say Pierzynski is great. He’s a stopgap at this point in his career. But he really is on an amazing run. 2013 was his 13th straight season with 110 games caught and the 12th in a row in which he’s started that many. Despite not establishing himself until age 24, Pierzynski is up to 19th all-time in games caught with 1,678. He’ll pass Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Ray Schalk and Johnny Bench on the list in 2014.

He’ll also be entering rarefied air if he can keep this 110-game streak going. Here’s the list of guys who caught 110 games at 37 or older:

37 – Brad Ausmus, Bob Boone, Carlton Fisk, Ivan Rodriguez, Benito Santiago, Ernie Whitt
38 – Brad Ausmus, Bob Boone, Fred Jacklitsch
39 – Bob Boone, Carlton Fisk
40 – Bob Boone
41 – Bob Boone
42 – Carlton Fisk

Since he won’t start against many left-handers,  Pierzynski will probably need to stay completely healthy to get to 110 again. At 37, that’s not as sure of a bet as it used to be. However, he’s been proving doubters wrong for a decade now.

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.