White Sox moving closer to Flowers era

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- While the outside chance of A.J. Pierzynski's return remains in play, the Chicago White Sox's feeling about heir-apparent Tyler Flowers seems to reduce that possibility.

The White Sox are considered a long shot to re-sign their veteran catcher since his free-agent price on the open market would appear to be too high. But the White Sox might have been ready to move on anyway.

“We aren’t there yet and we are still exploring other options, including A.J.,” general manager Rick Hahn said Monday on the opening day of baseball’s annual winter meetings. “However, if in fact we wind up with Tyler as the Opening Day catcher, we think that we will not lose anything defensively and we have a good young hitter capable of hitting for power and getting on base fairly regularly, at a fairly healthy clip. It’s nice to have that option to fall back on.”

Flowers was coveted for his offense when the White Sox acquired him from the Atlanta Braves after the 2008 season. But there have been stretches over the past few years where his defense has actually surpassed what he has been able to do with the bat.

“I don’t think we’re going to lose anything defensively or ability to stick to the game plan,” Hahn said. “Our pitchers like throwing to Tyler. Our coaches are comfortable with him sticking to the plan and he gets it. He’s worked hard at that over the years.

“... It’s a high standard we think he can live up to with what A.J.’s reputation was.”

The White Sox are confident that with regular at-bats, Flowers can show his true offensive potential as well.

“He’s going to strike out a lot more than A.J. and his batting average is going to probably be lower,” Hahn said. “But he’s still going to be a pretty solid offensive player and I think better than what you saw in 2012 because it’s tough with sporadic playing time and young player.”

The White Sox are so confident they have their full-time catcher that Hahn says at the present time the club has no interest in adding a veteran backup as an insurance policy. If Pierzynski does go elsewhere, Hector Gimenez would back up Flowers.

The Flowers-Gimenez route looked even more plausible Monday after Mike Napoli signed a three-year, $39 million deal with the Boston Red Sox to play some first base and catch. Russell Martin signed a two-year, $17 million deal to be the Pittsburgh Pirates' catcher.

Those two signings helped to shape the market for Pierzynski and the White Sox aren’t prepared to add a significant chunk to a payroll that will creep over the $100 million mark when their arbitration-eligible players are in the fold.