Tyler Flowers their starting catcher.
Yes, I wanted to keep A.J. Pierzynski for another year or two, and it wasn't because of 2005 nostalgia. It was because Pierzynski is still a far superior player to Flowers, even at his advancing age, and I didn't think it took a brain surgeon to figure that out.
I understood the reasons the Sox cut the cord with Pierzynski. He's a 36-year-old catcher. He wasn't going to duplicate the 27-homer season he had in 2012, and there was talk that he wasn't on the same page with manager Robin Ventura and the coaching staff last season.
That said, if you are going to jettison a productive player, you better have a replacement lined up. And that somebody needs to be better than Tyler Flowers. I knew going into the season Flowers was incapable of being anything more than a backup at the big-league level. He has tantalizing power, but that's his only real plus. He has holes in his swing like Swiss cheese, strikes out way too much and isn't as good defensively as Sox brass claims he is. I figured given a whole season, Flowers might bat .220. Actually, he batted .195 in 84 games this year before going on the disabled list this week to undergo right shoulder surgery.
Reports indicate Flowers first tweaked the shoulder about a year ago. The pain intensified before spring training, and he found out a couple months ago he would need the surgery.
So, the Sox knew before spring training Flowers wasn't healthy, yet they were willing to start the season with him and career minor-leaguer Hector Gimenez as their two big-league catchers. Given what we know now, it's even less of a surprise that the catching position has been a complete disaster for the 2013 White Sox. An injured Tyler Flowers was considered the best option in the organization. That's brutal.
Meanwhile, Pierzynski (.280 avg., 16 HR, 58 RBIs) continues to display competence as the starting catcher on a Texas Rangers ballclub that is tied for first place in the AL West entering Tuesday's action. Thud.
The Sox are left to hope and pray rookie Josh Phegley shows them something the last month of the season. Since an electric first week that included three home runs, Phegley has slumped to a .214 average. His defense has been poor. He dropped a routine pop up Monday against the Yankees, and I've been unimpressed with his receiving ability. Too many wild pitches and not enough pitches being blocked. Phegley will need to hit a lot to overcome his defensive shortcomings. While I'm more optimistic about his offensive abilities than I was about Flowers, the Sox need to see more before they can comfortably go into 2014 thinking Phegley is their catcher.
No matter what, the Sox would be smart to cut their losses with Flowers. He's damaged goods now, and I wouldn't want him in even a backup role. If they want to give Phegley a full-time shot, fine, but sign a serviceable veteran this offseason just in case Phegley fails as well.
I know the list of potential free agent catchers isn't exciting (except for Brian McCann, who is likely out of the Sox price range), but think about it: Anybody who can hit .230 and catch the ball is an upgrade behind the plate over what the Sox have right now. The standard for improvement at that position is not high.