White Sox decline to offer contract to Tyler Flowers

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White Sox decline to offer contract to Tyler Flowers

The White Sox let Tyler Flowers go Wednesday night in the name of offensive improvement and they sound hopeful to have someone lined up.

The team’s starting catcher for the past three seasons is one of two arbitration-eligible players to whom the White Sox didn’t offer a contract ahead of Wednesday’s 11 p.m. CST deadline. The club tendered contracts for outfielder Avisail Garcia and relievers Zach Putnam, Dan Jennings and Nate Jones.

General manager Rick Hahn said the need for more offense was the driving force for letting Flowers — who hit .239/.295/.356 with nine homers and 39 RBIs in 361 plate appearances in 2015 — become a free agent.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Alex Avila 'can't wait to kick (Detroit's) ass']

“The decision basically came down to we saw an opportunity to improve the club from an offensive standpoint,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “While we're not able to get into specifics as to what the next move will be to fill the roster spot vacated by Tyler, this move was done as part of a plan and we're just not in a position to announce what the next move's going to be.”

The White Sox were last in the American League in runs scored and home runs last season and finished 14th in on-base percentage. Their catchers combined for a .656 OPS, which ranked 17th among 30 major league teams.

Last week, the club signed free-agent catcher Alex Avila to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million in hopes of an offensive upgrade. Though he figured he might see less playing time next season, Flowers was on board because he thought the platoon could be good for the White Sox. But on Tuesday, Flowers heard from Hahn that the club was leaning towards making him a free agent.

“It’s definitely surprising,” Flowers said. “I have a good relationship with Rick so we talked a little bit. I knew this was a possibility, more so just recently, but still very surprising. In my understanding of the business we’re in, it seems a little surprising to make this move with the player the caliber that I am. I think it’s more than just surprising to me, I’m sure it’s surprising to a lot of people and teams.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox acquire pitcher Tommy Kahnle from Colorado]

Hahn said Wednesday the White Sox have more work ahead, indicating they don’t intend to head into the season with Rob Brantly or Kevan Smith as their No. 2 option.

While the White Sox have always lauded Flowers for his work with the pitching staff, and more recently his pitching framing, the catcher’s offense hasn’t been on the same level.

Flowers struggled in his first full season as the starting catcher, hitting .195/.247/.355 with only 10 homers and 24 RBIs before he revealed he had played through a shoulder injury that required surgery in September 2013.

Fully healthy, Flowers bounced back in 2014 and hit .241/.297/.396 with 15 homers and 50 RBIs and continued to earn the trust of his pitching staff.

While he never found consistency at the plate last season, Flowers excelled at pitch framing and was constantly lauded by pitchers for his game-calling skills. He finished among the game’s top catchers in framing metrics and Chris Sale has often credited much of his success to his trust in Flowers.

Hahn said everything had been taken into consideration when making the move. But ultimately, the need for offense prevailed.

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“One of the things we need to improve upon is our run-scoring ability,” Hahn said. “While Tyler certainly had some strengths from the defensive side of the game, and it's an area of importance, we did see the opportunity to make us a little bit stronger, along with Alex Avila, from an offensive standpoint.

“We’re looking to improve the club offensively at a number of positions and this move was part of potentially doing that at catcher.”

Jacob Turner, who was claimed off waivers from the Cubs this offseason, also was non-tendered. Hahn said the White Sox still hope to work out a deal with Turner.

Slumping White Sox get huge boost after Miguel Gonzalez 'defended his ground'

Slumping White Sox get huge boost after Miguel Gonzalez 'defended his ground'

Every factor but one suggested there was no way Rick Renteria would remove Miguel Gonzalez in the seventh inning on Monday afternoon.

Of course, Gonzalez didn’t know that.

But even as he walked to the mound with two on and no outs in the seventh and Wrigley Field roaring, Renteria didn’t have any intention of pulling Gonzalez.

Trades and injuries have given the White Sox manager even less wiggle room with which to work than the one-run lead Gonzalez was trying to protect. As long he was convinced his pitcher was game, Renteria would stay with Gonzalez. Gonzalez acquiesced and soon thereafter the White Sox were on their way to their first victory since July 8. The White Sox topped the Cubs 3-1 and in doing so snapped a nine-game losing streak.

“I just went in there to reaffirm that we were thinking the same way,” Renteria said. “He was thinking the same way. It was kind of easy.

“He said ‘I got this.’ He defended his ground.”

[Such a mighty wallop: How does Matt Davidson's mammoth home run stack up?]

Even though he had a front-row seat for the conversation, catcher Kevan Smith had little understanding of what transpired. The rookie said Renteria and Gonzalez spoke entirely in Spanish after Jon Jay and Javier Baez singled to open the bottom of the seventh inning. Smith heard Renteria mention to Gonzalez that lefty David Holmberg was ready to face switch hitter Ian Happ. Beyond that, all Smith heard from Gonzalez was ‘bueno’ and ‘listo,’ and Renteria was headed back to the visiting dugout.

But you don’t have to be a linguist to decipher what issues the White Sox pitching staff faces after a trying month.

Prior to Gonzalez pitching into the eighth, the White Sox hadn’t had a starter complete seven innings since June 16. An already overworked bullpen has also had to deal with season-ending injuries to Zach Putnam, Nate Jones and top relief prospect Zack Burdi. And those issues have been even further compounded by the trades of Jose Quintana, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle in the past 12 days.

So even though Gonzalez was on the verge of facing the top of the Cubs order a fourth time, Renteria had to stick with him so he could save top relievers Dan Jennings and Anthony Swarzak for later.

“I said ‘Just give me the ball,’ ” Gonzalez said. “ ’I’m OK. I’m fine. I’m feeling OK.’ Just walked away and I was able to get out of that jam. That was a big one.”

Smith was also happy with the decision. He liked how Gonzalez — who threw strikes on 73 of 105 pitches — had competed. Smith thought Gonzalez had great stuff and heard positive reviews from opposing hitters.

“(Gonzalez) had it,” Smith said. “The guys were coming up to the plate saying this guy has got some stuff today. It was a big moment to kind of prove that he can be a long guy, especially late in the game like that. Big pressure situation. Obviously it was getting pretty rowdy, but he stayed composed and pitched his way out of it.”

First was a five-pitch strikeout of Happ that ended with a swinging strike on a curveball. Jason Heyward then popped out to shallow center for the second out. Kris Bryant worked a five-pitch walk to load the bases. But Gonzalez jumped ahead of Anthony Rizzo in the count 1-2 before he got the star first baseman to fly out deep to center to strand the bases loaded.

Gonzalez returned in the eighth and retired one more hitter before he exited after a Kyle Schwarber single. The effort was plenty for Renteria and the White Sox, who also wiggled out of jams in the eighth and ninth inning.

“Sometimes you just don't have any other option,” Renteria said. “You just have to do what you have to do. They had a really good idea of how they wanted to attack those guys. …

“Miggy did a really nice job.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Sox win game one of Crosstown Series

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Sox win game one of Crosstown Series

Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun Times), David Haugh (Chicago Tribune) and Ben Finfer (ESPN Radio) join Kap to go over the exciting first game between the White Sox and the Cubs.

Plus, the latest on trade rumors linking Justin Verlander and Alex Avila to the Cubs. Do the Cubs really need to make another move?

Finally, the guys discuss whether Kyrie Irving asking for a trade out of Cleveland is the dumbest career choice, ever.