Flowers among six arb-eligible for White Sox
Catcher may receive non-tender deal before Wednesday's deadline
CHICAGO -- All six of the White Sox arbitration-eligible players are likely to be tendered a contract by the deadline at 10:59 p.m. CT on Wednesday.
Some of these six will present slightly more interesting scenarios to reach the final decisions.
At the top of that list sits Tyler Flowers, who has served as the team's primary catcher since the 2013 season. Flowers, 29, enters his third year as arbitration-eligible as one of the top pitch-framers in the game, with his 169 extra calls earned per Stat Corner ranking him second in the game last season. On the flip side, Flowers has struggled offensively with a .223 career average.
Flowers told MLB.com earlier this offseason that he expects to be the team's starting backstop for 2016. That assertion was made prior to the White Sox agreeing to a one-year, $2.5-million deal with veteran Alex Avila.
At the very least, this setup now resembles a lefty-righty, split playing time situation -- a point made by Avila during a Monday conference call, with the new backstop mentioning Flowers by name.
Flowers' intrinsic value can be heard about after every time he catches Chris Sale, who is the club's ace and one of the best starters in baseball, and has nothing but praise for Flowers' game-calling. Flowers' value can be viewed in Carlos Rodon's 2.73 ERA over 17 starts with Flowers in '15, compared to a 9.12 ERA in nine starts with Geovany Soto, although part of that discrepancy can be chalked up to the rookie developing as a Major Leaguer.
Non-tendering Flowers would mean having a replacement in place, which the White Sox don't possess at this time. They could still trade for a younger sort of future franchise-type catcher or find a stopgap through free agency or both. But ultimately, Flowers looks to be the best option even with an increase in salary coupled with a potential small decrease in playing time.
Left-handed reliever Dan Jennings becomes a second borderline non-tender candidate, especially with the recent addition of fellow southpaw Zach Phillips to the 40-man-roster. Jennings, 28, posted a 3.99 ERA during his first season with the White Sox, but 12 of his 25 earned runs came in just three of his 53 appearances. The White Sox don't figure to cut loose a talented southpaw who probably won't get a sizeable increase through arbitration, a pitcher who can work multiple innings or pitch to one hitter, but also a lefty who had lesser numbers against left-handed hitters in '15 than when facing right-handers.
As for the other arb-eligible White Sox: Nate Jones and Zach Putnam play into the late-inning bullpen setup, while Jacob Turner was just acquired during this offseason. Right fielder Avisail Garcia might be available for the right return via trade, as is the case for many on the roster coming off of a disappointing 2015 season, but the White Sox aren't about to simply give up on a player with Garcia's overall potential after the 24-year-old completed just his first full season in '15.