Braves catcher Tyler Flowers has been diagnosed with a fractured left hand, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports first reported. While Heyman lists his projected absence at four to six weeks, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman lists a more pessimistic timeline (via Twitter), suggesting that Flowers will miss “at least” six weeks but may not be able to return until September. Over the weekend, Flowers aggravated a previous injury that was sustained when he was hit by a pitch from A.J. Ramos. Bowman wrote yesterday that Flowers underwent an MRI, though the team has yet to announce the results.
According to Bowman, the Braves are likely to promote veteran backstop Anthony Recker to fill Flowers’ spot on the roster (Twitter link). The MLB.com scribe wrote yesterday that Recker has been on the temporarily inactive list with a non-health issue, but it would seem that is behind him now. Recker, who is no stranger to the NL East due to his time with the division-rival Mets, is hitting .244/.348/.421 in 230 plate appearances between the Triple-A affiliates for the Braves and Indians this season. Fellow veteran Blake Lalli would be the likeliest alternative to Recker, though he’s having a considerably less productive season. Whoever gets the call will pair behind the plate with A.J. Pierzynski, who has been unable to replicate last season’s above-average production, instead struggling to a .205/.227/.250 batting line in his age-39 campaign.
The loss of Flowers not only deprives the Braves of a player that has been far and away the most productive catcher on the big league roster but also all but eliminates the possibility of a Flowers trade prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver deadline. While Flowers hasn’t been an oft-mentioned trade candidate, the Braves have been largely open for business over the past couple of years, and Flowers is enjoying a career-year at the plate while playing on a highly affordable two-year pact. As a short-term piece with a .253/.343/.425 batting line at a premium position on a rebuilding club, trade interest in Flowers certainly wouldn’t have been a stretch of the imagination.
Of course, the Braves may simply have preferred to hang onto him for the duration of the season anyhow. The team is aiming for a considerably better season in 2017, and there’s no immediate replacement for him waiting in the wings in the upper levels of the minor leagues. He’s earning $2MM this season and is owed $3MM in 2017 before his team must make a call on a $4MM club option for the 2018 season (which comes with a $300K buyout). He’s struggled quite a bit with stolen bases this season, catching just two of 37 attempted thieves, but he continues to grade out as one of the best pitch-framing backstops in the game, per Baseball Prospectus.