DEC. 16: The Braves have now announced the signing.
DEC. 8: The Braves are in agreement on a two-year deal with catcher Tyler Flowers, pending a physical, multiple reports indicated on Tuesday evening. Flowers, a client of agent Tom O’Connell, will receive a two-year contract that guarantees him $5.3MM. He’ll reportedly take home $2MM in 2016 and $3MM in 2017 before the Braves decide on a $4MM option or a $300K buyout. Flowers can earn $1.5MM worth of incentives each season based on games caught (each year maxes out at 120 games), meaning he can earn up to $13.5MM over a three-year term in Atlanta.
With this signing, Flowers will return to the organization that drafted him back in 2005. He will presumably serve as a backup for A.J. Pierzynski, with whom he can form a solid platoon. Flowers, who will turn 30 in January, is a career .223/.289/.376 hitter across parts of seven seasons, but he’s produced offensively at a clip that is roughly average for catchers over the past two seasons (.240/.296/.378, 90 OPS+). He also delivered positive pitch-framing metrics in 2015 and has caught about 28 percent of attempted base-stealers over the past two seasons.
The addition of Flowers, on a multi-year deal no less, further calls into question the future of Christian Bethancourt with the Braves. Once viewed as Atlanta’s catcher of the future, the rocket-armed Bethancourt has struggled considerably at the plate in the Majors and also struggled tremendously with passed balls — an unexpected and unforeseen deficiency in his game. While it’s conceivable that Bethancourt will iron out the kinks in 2016 at the Triple-A level and be ready for a significant role in 2017, it has long seemed like the Braves may simply have lost faith in him. However, a club looking for a long-term upgrade behind the dish could certainly take a chance at buying low on him this offseason, as Bethancourt will be hard-pressed to earn playing time behind Flowers and Pierzynski in the coming season.
MLB.com’s Scott Merkin first reported the agreement (Twitter link). David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweeted shortly before Merkin’s report that the Braves were believed to have made some progress on a deal with Flowers. Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted the guarantee and incentives. Mark Bowman of MLB.com added the yearly breakdown (Twitter link).