The Chicago White Sox appear on the verge of having someone other than A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate to open a season for the first time since 2004. If that is the case, the question now becomes are the White Sox prepared for Pierzynski's departure?
Unfortunately, it does not appear so.
Not if the White Sox are intent on a combination of Tyler Flowers and Hector Gimenez behind the plate in 2013, at least.
While Flowers may have earned the trust of the White Sox behind the plate, he cannot hit at the level they need him to.
2012 was an unmitigated disaster for the young catcher. He struck out a whopping 56 times in 153 plate appearances last season, and—while he belted seven long balls—only drove in 13 runs.
These offensive liabilities first appeared while he was at Triple-A Charlotte. In 2011, for example, Flowers hit 15 home runs, yet only collected 32 RBI.
Simply put, his performance at the plate in 2012 is evidence of a trend, not an anomaly. He is going the wrong way at the plate—although that seems to be lost on the parties involved.
The Chicago Tribune's Phil Rogers noted on Tuesday that the White Sox believe Flowers has been handicapped by his role as Pierzynski's backup catcher the past two seasons.
Flowers, for his part, argues that his numbers are fine. Worse yet, his view on what being a productive catcher means is horribly skewed.
Flowers told White Sox beat writer Scott Merkin during a telephone interview that there are guys “out there with a .220 average and 15 homers and they are making a huge impact at catcher.”
Wait. What? In what world does a player with that line help his team?
Those numbers are simply unacceptable. It also goes against what general manager Rick Hahn wants to do with the White Sox.
Merkin wrote last week that Hahn wants to give second-year manager Robin Ventura “a more complete, diversified attack” in 2013. If he is sincerely looking to give Ventura flexibility throughout the order, then Flowers is not the answer.
As the 25-man roster sits right now, the White Sox are not prepared for Pierzynski’s departure. They appear to be structured largely around pitching, and a hole in the lineup will not do.
If it comes down to it, minor league catcher Josh Phegley has the skill set to beat out Flowers during spring training and become the No. 1 catcher. Phegley hits for greater contact and has much better speed, but he is more than likely a year away.
Bring back Pierzynski for one year—doubling the current one-year, $4 million offer could be what it takes—with the intention of Phegley becoming the full-time backstop in 2014.
The White Sox are not ready to let Pierzynski go. No offense to Flowers, but he is simply not the answer.