Pierzynski addresses one of the biggest needs on a club that lost catcher Mike Napoli to free agency this winter. Pierzynski, who turns 36 on Sunday, hit .278 with 27 home runs and 77 RBIs in 135 games for the White Sox in 2012. His .501 slugging percentage and his .827 OPS were the highest in 12 full seasons with the Twins, Giants and White Sox.
Texas catchers hit a combined .228 with a .397 slugging percentage in 2012. Both numbers ranked eighth in the American League after the club led both categories at that position in 2011. Soto, a right-handed hitter, batted .198 with 11 home runs and 39 RBIs in 99 games for the Rangers and the Cubs.
"A.J. is a winning guy," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "There just aren't that many catchers that go out and play every day like he does. That says something about him not only physically, but mentally and emotionally, that he gets ready to play every day. It's a demanding position. If you look at how many winning teams he's been on and how many great pitchers he's worked with ... [he's] a left-handed bat, it's a great fit for us."
Pierzynski, a two-time All-Star and the White Sox starting catcher when they won the World Series in 2005, is also one of the most durable catchers in the game. Pierzynski became the Twins' No. 1 catcher in 2001 and played in 114 games that year. He started 102 games at catcher that year and at least 112 in each of the past 11 seasons. His only trip to the disabled list was a two-week stay in 2011 with a fractured left wrist.
"Physically, I feel awesome," Pierzynski said. "Mentally, I'm as good as I've been. I always give credit to my mom and dad, because they gave me some good genes to allow me to do this. I want to play every game."
Pierzynski also comes with a reputation of having an abrasive, irritating personality that can cause problems with opposing teams. Pierzynski admitted his reputation precedes him, but he said there is only one thing Rangers fans need to know about him.
"I go out there to win and do everything I can to win," Pierzynski said. "What has been said or written, I can't control. All I can do is go out there and play as hard as I can to win. I take pride in the fact that I give everything I have on the field and do everything I can to help my team win."
Pierzynski had some ill feelings toward Washington last July when he was left off the All-Star team. But Washington was among those who had lunch with Pierzynski before Christmas, and both said those feelings are gone.
"Old news ... we're ready to move forward," Washington said.
"When we had lunch, it came up and I made a joke out of it," Pierzynski said. "It's over with. Obviously you're disappointed as a player because you want to go to the All-Star Game, but it's over with. I have nothing but praise for [Washington]. I know what he's done in the game and what he's all about."
Pierzynski is the first major addition to the Rangers' lineup this offseason, giving them a left-handed bat in the middle of a right-handed-heavy lineup. The Rangers are still looking for offensive help, and club officials have publicly acknowledged having multiple trade conversations with the D-backs.
The Rangers have been interested in Justin Upton, but the D-backs, after signing Cody Ross to a three-year contract, may prefer to talk about Jason Kubel instead. Kubel, another left-handed bat, hit .253 with 30 home runs and 90 RBIs with Arizona after signing a three-year contract with the D-backs in the offseason.
Daniels said the Rangers are actively trying to add more offense to their lineup.
"We're looking at that now, and there's a decent chance we could add somebody," Daniels said.
The Rangers are also looking at adding starting pitching to a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando. Martin Perez is currently the fifth starter and Colby Lewis is expected back from flexor tendon surgery by the beginning of June, but the Rangers are still looking to add at least one more starter.