Earlier on Wednesday, the White Sox successfully divorced themselves from Gordon Beckham by letting him sign with the Atlanta Braves. The financial commitment -- a one-year, $1.25 million contract -- represents his second straight salary cut, putting him on track for a minor-league contract if he continues on this trajectory.
Maybe a different team, league or A.J. Pierzynski's warm embrace will reverse the slide in performance that's resulting in the lower salaries. He made hay on both Mother's Day and Father's Day, so perhaps the home cooking in Georgia will bring that out of him more often.
Oooooor ... maybe the move to Atlanta is the equivalent of a baseball hospice; a relocation closer to home in order to make his final days in the majors as comfortable as possible. It's all the same from here, because it stood no chance of happening with the Sox, and it'll be nice to finally go a January without hearing Beckham explain how the upcoming year will be different, because it never was.
Later on Wednesday, the White Sox didn't offer a contract to Tyler Flowers. He is now a free agent.
As pnoles showed earlier this morning, it's a confusing decision based on things like Flowers' excellent receiving skills, overall positional scarcity, and, of course, a still-modest salary.
But there are some similarities between Flowers and Beckham. Flowers bumped his head against a low offensive ceiling, posting OBPs of .296, .247, .297 and .295 over his last four seasons. His power also dropped for the third consecutive season, as he fell short of 10 homers for the first time since he became a starter. In those three seasons, the Sox have averaged 91 losses, and there aren't many players who should feel settled during a stretch like this.
Granted, in those first two seasons, the Sox supported him with bad ideas like Hector Gimenez and Adrian Nieto, and a false-starter in Josh Phegley. Then in 2015, paired with the first credible support in Geovany Soto, Sox catchers combined for middle-of-the-pack production for a little over $4 million. When the Sox signed Alex Avila to replace Soto last week, it seemed like they finally figured out an acceptable status quo.
So, given all the problems elsewhere and Flowers' well-regarded catching of the Sox' most important pitchers, it's a weird place to dig. My reaction was basically the same as the Waco Kid's:
I'm trying to keep it to befuddlement, because I was plumb wrong about Flowers getting non-tendered, so it's not like I have a good grasp on where it's going from here. The Sox could have grand plans for this position that have us shaking our heads at our younger, angrier selves six months from now.
Frustration is there for the taking, though. For one, we've been closely acquainted with Flowers' work behind the plate. It's a skill that's great to write about, because we can plot it:
Call helps #WhiteSox Strike 3 should be ball 3 Bot 7 Danks vs Canha 10% call same 3.4in from edge pic.twitter.com/NPYaOLvSpV— WhiteSox Strike Zone (@WhiteSoxUmp) May 17, 2015
And we can GIF it:
This skill only became more evident while he was paired with overmatched catchers like Nieto. And unlike Beckham, whose defense passed the eye test but was never endorsed by metrics, Flowers graded out as one of the best in both respects. The Sox have started position players who aren't good at any one thing -- and the Sox tendered a seven-figure contract to one on Wednesday -- so it's weird to see them suddenly ditch a dude who actually is great at a significant part of his job.
But, as Mr. T says: "Don't get too close, man. It's hard to pity a fool if you get too close." There are worse catchers than Flowers, who could've started for several other teams, but there are better ones, too. I can imagine enjoying one who gives up some strikes, but does the other defensive things well enough and makes up for it in hits. The idea of trying something different before absolutely everything says it's necessary is somewhat refreshing.
We just need to know who that catcher is first, and then we'll need to see it happen. Therein lies the rub.
At the moment, we're more than a month into the offseason and this White Sox winter can only be defined by who the team isn't bringing back -- Alexei Ramirez, Beckham, and now Flowers. The Beckham decision is more symbolic than earth-moving, as the Sox finally cut the cord that should've been severed last year. The other two registered as surprises, especially Flowers, the only one of the three to hold the distinction of outearning his income in 2015.
The hope is that there's actual ambition for these areas, and this turn to address the not-particularly-problematic catching position is the stage of housecleaning where the room gets dirtier than it ever was before. All three former Sox left plenty of room for improvement, the front office is apparently open to trying something different, and so maybe we'll be able to enjoy more than 22 percent of the lineup after the smoke clears. It'd just be nice to see something for ourselves, and soon.