Posted on September 24, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
Despite another losing season, the Atlanta Braves have to be pleased with some of the progress they’ve made in 2017. The Braves certainly appear pleased with their catching duo of Kurt Suzuki and Tyler Flowers, as both appear to be back in Atlanta in 2018. The Braves announced Saturday that they have signed Suzuki to a one-year extension worth $3.5 million. There are also reports that Atlanta plans to pick up the $4 million option to bring back Flowers in 2018.
Suzuki signed with the Braves during the offseason and has ended up having the best offensive season of his career. He is currently hitting .271 with an OPS of .868. Suzuki has also hit a career-high 18 home runs. Naturally, the Braves were interested in Suzuki for his defensive abilities and experience in managing a young pitching staff. But the offense he’s provided has been a great bonus and helped convince the Braves to retain him for another year.
“It feels good, as this is a place that I love and I wanted to come back,” Suzuki said. “I am glad everything worked out. The comfort of my family and all that kind of stuff helped a lot in the decision. It is nice to be in a place with a lot of young players. You can see the potential and a lot of positives coming out of this. It is only going to get better, and I am excited to be a part of that.”
Flowers and Suzuki have split the catching duties for most of the season. The Braves appear content to let those two continue to do so next year. Nothing is official but Braves GM John Coppolella has told reporters that the team is “strongly leaning toward” bringing back Flowers in 2018 by exercising his option.
“This has worked great this year and we want to see if it can work as well in 2018 too,” says Coppolella.
Like Suzuki, the 31-year old Flowers has also had a career year. He’s currently hitting .283 with an OPS of .821, both of which would be career highs for him. He impressed during his first season in Atlanta in 2016. But Flowers took another step forward this season. Whether he can keep that going on the other side of 30 remains to be seen. But at a price of $4 million, keeping Flowers for another year is an easy decision.
Braves manager Brian Snitker, who also hopes to be back with the team next season, is fully on board with Suzuki and Flowers sharing the catching duties again next season.
“You can have situations where the two (catchers) might not get along as well as these two guys do,” says Snitker. “(Flowers and Suzuki) are each other’s biggest fan. I think it makes an arrangement like that special when each of them (is) pulling for the other guy.”
Despite having an impressive farm system, the Braves have no young catchers waiting in the wings. Rather than testing their luck on the free agent market, the Braves are locking up the catchers that they know and trust to perform both offensively and defensively. Retaining both Suzuki and Flowers will also give Atlanta’s increasingly young pitching staff familiarity with the team’s catchrs.
All things considered, bringing back both Suzuki and Flowers is a good move by the Braves. Atlanta has more pressing needs to address elsewhere on the field to address this winter. Shoring up their situation behind the plate with a pair of trusted veterans is the right move for a team like the Braves that’s nearing the end of the rebuilding process and hoping to compete in 2018.