JUPITER, Fla. – Juan Pierre signed a one-year, $1.6 million deal with the Miami Marlins this winter. He hopes it’s not the last contract of his career.
Pierre, 35, said in an interview Saturday that he hopes to play beyond this year. Pierre is coming off a successful season with the Philadelphia Phillies, in which he batted .307 and stole 37 bases.
“I would like to play as long as I still enjoy the game,” Pierre said. “Last year, I signed a minor-league deal. So, it wasn’t like it was guaranteed. I had to make the team.
“I’m not high on people’s list. I don’t think I’m in a position to say, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll play three or four more years.’ I’m not in that position. I have to go one year at a time.”
Pierre last played for the Marlins in 2005, before he was dealt to the Chicago Cubs. Now he’s back for a second tour as the everyday left fielder on a rebuilt Miami team.
What’s been the key to Pierre’s longevity? The answer, perhaps not surprisingly, is that he runs during the offseason. A lot. He does it in short bursts, ladder workouts, and with resistance bungees. Pierre doesn’t bother with distance training, saying it’s been years since he ran a continuous mile.
Pierre focuses on 90 feet – the interval he’s covered 591 times, as the majors’ active leader in stolen bases.
“I know if my legs go, then I go,” Pierre said. “Tony Perez told me that in my first go-around here (with the Marlins): ‘Keep your legs. Keep your legs.’ Guys retire because they lose their legs. That stuck with me ever since then.
“I know I’m at the stage when people are waiting for me to slow up. The work I do in the offseason, half of it is just (about) staying healthy.”
Pierre was one of the most sought-after free agents in baseball after the 2006 season, when he signed a five-year, $44 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Fellow outfield speedster Michael Bourn just agreed to a comparable deal with Cleveland (four years, $48 million) after much debate over his appropriate market value.
“Guys that run, you get to 31 and (teams) shy away from guys like that,” Pierre said. “Bourn is 30. I was 28 when I signed my deal with the Dodgers, right in the prime. It’s a tough thing, because power never goes on you. No one’s saying that about Adam Dunn or Ryan Howard or (Albert) Pujols. You’re going to hit for power. You’re not going to one day hit the ball like I do.
“But the legs, it’s a big thing. Bourn is super fast. I think he takes care of his body pretty good. That’s the big thing. As a runner, you have to do more than the sluggers do. When we get on, it takes a lot out of us. We’ve got to dive back to bags. We’ve got to steal. All of that stuff takes its toll.”
Asked if he thought Bourn’s deal was fair, Pierre said, “I don’t know what he was after, but that’s a good chunk of money, I believe. From my vantage point, that was a nice deal – especially for a guy who doesn’t hit home runs. Let’s call it what it is: Most guys who get the big bucks are run producers, unless it was Ichiro, and Ichiro’s in a different class. Other than Ichiro, I don’t know of a pure singles guy who got a whole lot of money (in comparison to) a run producer.”
-- Jon Paul Morosi