Just Playing Isn’t Enough

Recently, when discussing the catching situation, and the eventual return of Wilson Ramos, I keep seeing people ask about Jesus Flores. Reports suggest that they will keep Kurt Suzuki as a backup, and Flores will become expendable. This is a shame for Jesus Flores, but not for the team. And yet, I keep seeing things that suggest the Nats should try to figure out how to use Flores, as if they owe him something for being paid to play baseball for them this year, especially from fans on Twitter.

Well, Nats fans, its time to recognize that this team’s management has to act like adults. They can’t look at Flores and say stuff like “he was a key player when we needed him most” because this is bunk. Flores was a negative WAR player who filled in when their starting catcher got hurt. You know who else would have been “key” or “filled in admirably”? Any catcher on the roster. Does he deserve credit for staying healthy this year? Absolutely. Does he deserve credit for coming back from awful injuries? Absolutely. But that does not mean he was good for this team this year.

To put in perspective, among the catchers with 250 or more PAs in Major League Baseball, Flores ranked dead last in OPS. Out of the 34 guys on that list, he ranked 29th in AVG, 33rd in OBP and 31st in SLG. His WAR wasn’t the worst among NL players with PAs, but according to BR he ranked 674 out of 724 in that category. In terms of fielding, they rank him overall a negative defense catcher, and anecdotally it appeared that way this year, most notably with his trouble receiving throws to home from the outfield. I won’t get on his case for the horrendous CS%, because I put alot of that on the pitchers, especially considering what happened to Suzuki when he got here. In short, he was a very bad catcher this year.

I don’t want this to make you think I dislike Jesus Flores. I really thought he was a special player a few years ago, the beginning of a core group of young talent, when he looked like he could be a better than average starter, a strong hitting catcher. But that train seems to have left the station, and I don’t think nostalgia is what should be powering this team going forward. Nostalgia makes you sign guys like Ryan Howard through 2016, with a $10 M buyout option in 2017 when he’ll be 37 years old. The Nats don’t need to make moves like that, even if they are mini version of them. They can let a guy go, even if he played well for them, but especially when he didn’t.

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3 thoughts on “Just Playing Isn’t Enough

  1. You’re right – he produced very little this year. The question is: Is this the new normal for him? Remember a few years ago, he’d really hit the cover off the ball. It’s not just sentimentality, but an honest question of his ability. If he’s just irretrievably damaged and/or injury prone, well, ok. I just don’t know that I’m ready to make that conclusion.

  2. If I was the Nats i’d tender him … if only because Catchers are such a premium in this league. And a healthy Flores sitting in AAA is going to have value for either our team or someone else’s. Remember a few years ago when we had to purchase Jamie Burke from Seattle because we were so thin at Catcher? Or how about in 2012, when the team used Six different catchers on the year?

    Think of it this way; we just paid Lannan $5M to serve as starter insurance in Syracuse. Why wouldn’t we pay Flores $1.2m or so to do the same in 2013?

  3. I believe Flores is out of options, so even if we did tender him we’d likely lose him if we tried to send him back to AAA. I think it’s far more likely that they will non-tender him as he is now three years removed from his injury and just had an awful season entering what is supposed to be his peak years as a player. With both Solano and Leon showing promise as the 3rd stringers, Flores is totally expendable. Plus we need the 40-man roster spot for some of our Rule 5 eligible guys.

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