The Tampa Bay Rays are apparently attempting to sign free-agent catcher Tyler Flowers, according to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com.
This news is somewhat odd, as it comes after the Rays traded for Hank Conger, after they tendered a contract for Rene Rivera, and after they kept Luke Maile on the 40-man roster (over Joey Butler, who was just claimed by Cleveland). And oh right, Curt Casali is in the mix as well, and he hit ten home runs in just over 200 plate appearances last season.
Flowers will be 30 next season, and over the course of his career, mostly in a backup roll, he's hit for a .223/.289/.376 slash line that is 17% below average.
So why might the Rays want Flowers? Well, he's been a good pitch framer, especially recently.
We wrote about him five days ago, and said he was a potential Rays free-agent target:
Defensively, Flowers is good enough to get the job done. Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) says he has been worth 11 runs above the league-average catcher in his career, although last year he regress to two runs below average. What DRS does not take into account, however, is Flowers' pitch framing, which vastly improved last season.
While he had been average or slightly below in years past, Flowers was worth 22.5 runs above average on framing alone in 2015 according to StatCorner, which ranked him second in all of baseball. Flowers may not be the sexiest pick-up, but he seems to be an upgrade over Rivera.
While Rivera's 2014 was better than any single season Flowers has put together, Flowers has better career numbers at the plate compared to Rivera's career .211/.258/.331 and 62 wRC+. DRS does give Rivera a slight defensive edge at 12 runs saved above average in 2378 career innings compared to Flowers' 11 in 3294 frames, but this difference is fairly minute.
Drew wrote this after the Rays acquired Conger, but noted that the acquisition didn't necessarily mean that the Rays were done:
As of right now, the team will seemingly either go with a tandem of Conger and Casali or Conger and Rivera. The latter might actually make sense as the Rays could send Casali back to Triple-A to be a quality third option rather than getting rid of Rivera and relying on Luke Maile as the first in line in the event of an injury.
Flowers could still represent an upgrade in that situation as the team could ink him and put him in a tandem with Conger while releasing Rivera and putting Casali at Triple-A.
Of course, if the Rays really are making a play for Tyler Flowers, it could mean that they've found interest at the winter meetings in the defensively-excellent Rivera, and that he could be a part of a trade yet to come.
I don't know. I've got no inside info. All that I do know is that we told you so.