The Braves have agreed to re-sign catcher Tyler Flowers after paying a $2MM buyout on his $6MM club option, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports (on Twitter). Declining Flowers’ option was a purely on-paper move, as he’ll be brought back on a $4MM deal for the upcoming season. It’s a strange technicality, to be sure, particularly since the Braves don’t figure to approach the luxury tax threshold in 2020. But the restructuring of the deal now means that only $4MM of Flowers’ salary counts against the 2020 payroll — as opposed to the $6MM that would’ve counted had Atlanta simply exercised his option.
Flowers, 34 in January, didn’t have his best season at the plate but remains a highly regarded pitch framer. And while his .229/.319/.413 batting line checked in at 12 to 14 percent below that of a league-average hitter, per metrics like wRC+ (88) and OPS+ (86), it was still better than that of the league-average catcher (85 wRC+). The Atlanta organization will surely be on the lookout for catching help this offseason — their other catcher in 2019, Brian McCann, already announced his retirement — but having Flowers on hand as a quality, framing-oriented backup with some pop in his bat makes plenty of sense given the affordable nature of the contract.
Looking to other defensive components behind the plate, Flowers had his share of struggles. His 16 passed balls allowed led the league, so it’s no surprise to see that he rated near the bottom of the league in terms of pitch blocking over at Baseball Prospectus. His 19 percent caught-stealing rate was also a ways below the 26 percent league average. All that said, however, Flowers’ elite framing ranked fourth in the game, per Baseball Prospectus, who rated him as the game’s ninth-most-valuable defender in spite of those blocking and throwing woes. Flowers also drew a positive mark with four Defensive Runs Saved — his ninth straight season with a positive DRS rating.