CHICAGO -- Catcher A.J. Pierzynski currently stands as a valuable piece of the 2010 White Sox, the same role he has served since 2005, when he helped win a World Series title during his first year on the South Side.
As long as Pierzynski stays with the White Sox, he will remain the team's starting catcher. That point was made abundantly clear by manager Ozzie Guillen prior to Wednesday's game with Tampa Bay. But Pierzynski understands if this team continues to falter, he could be an important trade chip for general manager Ken Williams.
Pierzynski's 10-and-5 rights kick in on June 14, meaning he'll have 10 years in the Majors and five straight with one team, while also possessing veto power over any trade at that point. With Tyler Flowers waiting in the wings and seemingly correcting spring issues with his swing at Triple-A Charlotte, then the free-agent-to-be Pierzynski becomes a veteran candidate to be moved.
"I'm the one guy that they probably can move. I have an expiring contract; they can't trade [Paul] Konerko because he has a full no-trade clause," said Pierzynski during a Wednesday afternoon radio interview on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. "They don't really have a lot of other pieces that they would want to trade that are expiring. Hopefully it doesn't happen, but you just never know."
On the day before the 2010 season began, Pierzynski told MLB.com there was nothing to talk about concerning contract extensions with his three-year, $18.35 million deal ending after the present campaign because "nothing has happened. No discussion." Pierzynski wants to stay in Chicago, but if the White Sox don't want him, he plans to play out the year and hope another team takes him.
Guillen sounded a Wednesday warning to Pierzynski, though, about the grass appearing greener with another team. Guillen believes this theory is especially apropos due to the unique player that is the hard-nosed Pierzynski.
"A.J. is not an easy cookie to swallow. OK? He's very happy here," said Guillen of the lifetime .286 hitter, who entered Wednesday's game with an uncharacteristic .182 average. "Be careful what you wish because they are not going to treat him the way we treat him. A.J. has been great for me. Awesome. Awesome.
"But he's not an easy guy to manage or coach. Then I just leave it that way. I love him. I do love him. When A.J. got here, nobody liked him and now we like him a little, little bit more. And that's because of his reputation in the game.
"When I saw him, I loved him. I loved the way he played the game. I loved the way he goes about his business," Guillen said. "People can say whatever they want to say about him. Sometimes I want to kill him. I have more meetings with A.J. Pierzynski since being manager than I've had with anybody in my club. But every time A.J. puts on that uniform, he goes out and kicks some butt."
Ultimately, Pierzynski staying in Chicago probably won't be his decision alone.