The Braves’ first potential mistake this offseason came two days after the Washington Nationals World Series celebration.
Ignore everything I’m about to say if Atlanta lands Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, or Anthony Rendon with the money they saved on this move. But for now, before the markets even open, Tyler Flowers has been re-signed. I’ve been very adamant before that I’m not a member of the Tyler Flowers fan club. And not only did the Braves bring him back despite his poor performance, but they also gave no time for exploring the free-agent market or trades.
I understand the organization wants to lock down something at catcher, but it feels like they are already waving the white flag and committing to mediocrity again. The Braves aren’t saving money for some big move; they’re just saving money. If sacrificing at the catcher’s spot put away some cash for Strasburg or Cole, give Flowers $4 million and find another veteran to platoon with him. It just feels like we’re heading towards another offseason full of cheap decisions, thus wasting another year of Acuña, Freddie, Ozzie, and others. I could be wrong. Maybe they’re saving up for Grandal, Rendon, Cole, or Strasburg… but when have the Braves ever done that? The last big free agent to come to town besides Donaldson was BJ Upton.
Flowers only had one at-bat this postseason at arguably the thinnest position on the team, so what does that say about his value? His defensive numbers were god awful last season. He only threw out 19% of baserunners, his lowest mark since 2016, when he threw out 5%. He gave up 16 passed balls, which led all of Major League Baseball and was responsible for numerous wild pitches. For a guy who prides himself on his framing, that’s not good. His offense was a non-factor. The numbers with the stick were a little better than last year, but that wasn’t exactly a hitting clinic either. He’s consistently been a sub .230 hitter with about 10 home runs and little to no other production. Flowers actually did notch three triples, but he isn’t one to shine in the clutch.
The only saving grace of this contract is the duration and salary; it’s peanuts. I understand Shea Langeliers is coming, but catchers are notoriously slow developers in the minor leagues, and he will likely be starting next year in Mississippi. William Contreras had a down 2019 and will need some more seasoning as well. Flowers has some familiarity with the pitching staff, but I don’t think anyone would be knocking down his door to get him to their club and especially not for more than $4 million. As much as I’m not a fan of Flowers, my main beef is with how hasty this move was.
I’ll admit this free agency class for catchers is pretty uninspiring. Francisco Cervelli is an option. I’d rather give him that kind of money, or to guys like Travis d’Arnaud, Jason Castro, Robinson Chirinos, or Stephen Vogt. I feel like they all compare defensively and have more potential on offense, which is what disappeared for Atlanta during the playoffs. There are also a handful of options on the trade market; Welington Castillo was traded to the Rangers for a low-level outfielder and $250k in international bonus pool money. Not saying he’s a better catcher than Flowers, but there’s at least some movement on the market. I’ve mentioned targeting a guy like James McCann or Tucker Barnhart with the bevy of arms Atlanta has in their system, but now that looks far-fetched.
The Braves better hope Langiliers or Contreras can move up the ladder quickly because until then, it doesn’t look like the front office will be dedicating much to the catcher position. Hopefully, that is not a sign for the rest of the offseason, but I am not anticipating a spike in payroll.