Braves make deal with catcher Flowers official
ATLANTA -- Immediately after being non-tendered by the White Sox two weeks ago, Atlanta-area native Tyler Flowers began looking forward to a potential homecoming. The veteran catcher received his wish last week when he and the Braves agreed to a two-year, $5.3 million contract.
The Braves officially announced the completion of the deal on Wednesday afternoon. Outfielder Dian Toscano was outrighted to Triple-A Gwinnett to create a spot on the 40-man roster for Flowers, who is now set to share the Braves' catching duties with his former White Sox teammate A.J. Pierzynski.
"This turned out maybe even better than I had hoped," Flowers said. "Atlanta is home to me, and the [Braves] organization is somewhat home to me as well. When I was non-tendered, I was hoping the Braves would be interested because I knew I would love an opportunity to return."
After being born and raised in suburban Atlanta, Flowers experienced the thrill of being selected by his hometown team in the 33rd round of the 2005 Draft. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound catcher steadily enhanced his stock during the three seasons he played in Atlanta's farm system. He was one of the key pieces the Braves used to acquire Javier Vazquez from the White Sox on Dec. 4, 2008.
With the addition of Flowers, the Braves have gained an opportunity to lessen the workload placed on the 38-year-old Pierzynski, who logged 104 starts as Atlanta's catcher this year. They were not comfortable pairing Pierzynski for a second straight season with Christian Bethancourt, the once highly regarded prospect who fell out of favor before being traded to the Padres last week.
Over the past week, there has been reason to wonder how the Braves would make room for Flowers on the 40-man roster. They answered this question by outrighting Toscano, a Cuban outfielder who missed this past season because he never gained clearance from the United States government to begin playing.
Flowers worked alongside Pierzynski when the young catcher experienced short stints at the Major League level in 2009 and '10. He then served as Pierzynski's primary backup with the White Sox during both of the next two seasons.
While serving as the White Sox primary catcher over the past three seasons, Flowers batted .228 with 34 homers and a .656 OPS. The 29-year-old veteran hit .239 with nine homers and a .652 OPS over 361 plate appearances this past season.
Flowers has been lauded for his pitch-framing skills, but some of his defensive numbers slipped this past year. He recorded a 26.4 catcher-caught-stealing percentage and was charged with nine passed balls in 1,052 innings during the 2014 season. But he had a 14.5 CCS percentage and was charged with 15 passed balls this year.
The Braves were seeking another catching option because of the concerns they developed in relation to Bethancourt, who had entered this year considered to be their catcher of the future. Bethancourt caught eight of the 19 opponents who attempted to steal against him, but he was charged with eight passed balls in just 357 innings.
While Bethancourt's strong arm provides some value, his 44.1 innings-to-passed-ball ratio has been a problem. Flowers has recorded an 81.8 innings-to-passed-ball ratio over the past three seasons.