The Atlanta Braves catching duo of Kurt Suzuki and Tyler Flowers has been very effective over the past two seasons. In terms of bWAR, Suzuki has been worth 4.0 and Flowers has been worth 3.0. The Braves managed to lock up the latter of the pair for the 2019 season with a $4 million base salary as well as a club option for 2020 worth $6 million. He should continue to see the majority of the starts for the Braves through 2019, or at least until either Alex Jackson or William Contreras are ready to go. Luckily for Flowers, Jackson has struggled mightily over the past few seasons, and Contreras has just reached High-A at the age of 20 and figures to be at least two years away.
Flowers has slashed .229/.359/.354 over 231 plate appearances. In that span, he has walked 31 times compared to just 53 strikeouts and has hit six home runs. While it has been a massive drop off from an outstanding 2017 season in which he slashed .281/.378/.445 with 12 home runs and 16 doubles, he has still brought value both offensively and defensively and has certainly gained the trust and favor of the front office. His counterpart, Suzuki, received an extension this time last season, although it remains to be seen how the Braves intend to handle that situation.
While the pair remain healthy and have produced some solid results, the Braves also decided to bring in a little bit of depth for the stretch run, as Rene Rivera was claimed off of waivers from the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday. Rivera has missed a lot of time this season and has only logged 87 plate appearances, slashing just .244/.287/.439 with four home runs. Nevertheless, Rivera’s value has historically come from behind the plate as he has been one of the most celebrated pitch framers in the league throughout his career. While his marks in that department haven’t been to the level that one would expect from him, the sample size is exceptionally small and he has been dealing with injuries all season. The 35-year-old is owed the remainder of his $2.8 million salary, which comes out to about $500k, all of which the Braves will eat.
While the Angels will not receive any compensation, it gives them a bit of salary relief while clearing a roster spot to see what young guys such as Jose Briceno or Francisco Arcia can do, as the Halos aren’t really playing for anything in the last month of the season. While neither of those guys were great prospects for the Angels, they have each been rather decent this season.
Arcia, who will turn 29 by the time the season is over, spent the first part of his career with the Yankees organization. While he made it to Triple-A, he became a minor league free agent following the 2015 season and signed with the Miami Marlins, with whom he also reached Triple-A. His stay in the Marlins system didn’t last very long, however, as he signed on with the Angels prior to the 2017 season. While he struggled offensively, the Angels brought him back for 2018, and he caught some lightening in a bottle in the minor leagues leading to his first major league call-up. Over 53 plate appearances, he has slashed .280/.321/.520 with three home runs. While the absolute lack of plate discipline (1 walk to 18 strikeouts) is concerning, he has been riding a rather average .324 BABIP suggesting that these results could potentially be at least somewhat sustainable.
Briceno, 25, is a similar type of player, but considerably younger. He landed on my radar following the 2014 season when he was traded by the Colorado Rockies to the Braves alongside Chris O’Dowd in exchange for David Hale and Gus Schlosser. His stay with the Braves, however only lasted a season, as he was involved in the Andrelton Simmons deal. While there have been some bumps along the road, including a suspension, and significant struggles from 2015 through 2017, the Angels’ faith seems to have paid off as he came back in a major way in Triple-A, slashing .277/.297/.536 with eight home runs in Triple-A. While his BABIP was actually lower than his average in the minor leagues, he was very fortunate in the major leagues, as his .291/.333/.430 slash line was courtesy of a .364 BABIP. Furthermore, the plate discipline isn’t any better than Arcia’s, as he walked just 4.7 percent of the time. While I like Briceno’s power potential more over a longer period of time, there are certainly a few more kinks to be worked out in his game. I would suggest that the Angels send him to winter ball this offseason to work some of them out.
Both teams got what they need out of this deal, as Atlanta will bring in some injury insurance for the stretch run, while the Angels clear off some payroll and a roster spot. Nevertheless, the real winners of this deal are Arcia and Briceno, who should see their playing time increase exponentially over the next few weeks.