The Braves’ catcher tandem will remain intact next season. After re-signing backup Kurt Suzuki to a one-year contract on Saturday, general manager John Coppolella told Mark Bowman of MLB.com and other reporters the Braves are “strongly leaning toward” exercising starter Tyler Flowers’ $4MM club option for 2018. Buying out the O’Connell Sports Management client would cost the team $300K (Twitter link).
“This has worked great this year and we want to see if it can work as well in 2018 too,” Coppolella said of the Flowers-Suzuki tandem (via David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, on Twitter).
Retaining Flowers should be an easy call for the Braves, who have witnessed the 31-year-old turn into a quality all-around backstop in their uniform. Flowers took an unusual route to do so, as he first joined the Braves as a 33rd-round pick in 2005 before heading to the White Sox in a 2008 trade (one that saw Javier Vazquez go to Atlanta) and then returning to his native Georgia as a free agent in December 2015.
During his two seasons as a Brave, Flowers has mixed above-average offensive production – including a .283/.377/.444 line in 345 plate appearances this year – with brilliant work as a receiver. While Flowers threw out a mere 5 percent of attempted base stealers last year and has caught only 19 percent this season, ranking well below the 27 percent league average, both Baseball Prospectus and StatCorner have placed him among the game’s very best pitch framers in the same time period.
All told, Flowers and Suzuki have been worth 4.5 fWAR this year, making them one of the top backstop duos in the majors in their first season together. Even if there’s some regression from the Braves’ catchers in 2018, they should still form a cost-effective pairing at a combined $7.5MM.
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