White Sox

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.

White Sox Talk Podcast: American League All-Stars rave about Jose Abreu

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: American League All-Stars rave about Jose Abreu

With Jose Abreu playing in the All-Star Game, we asked some of his American League teammates about the White Sox first baseman. Justin Verlander, Craig Kimbrel and Michael Brantley rave about Abreu, explaining why he’s such a great hitter and a tough out for pitchers. 

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

All Star of the present Jose Abreu trying to help Yoan Moncada become the All Star of the future for White Sox

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USA TODAY

All Star of the present Jose Abreu trying to help Yoan Moncada become the All Star of the future for White Sox

WASHINGTON, D.C. — While the White Sox wait for their All Stars of the future to develop, Jose Abreu is representing the club at the All-Star Game in the nation’s capital.

Abreu, elected by the fans to be the American League’s starting first baseman Tuesday night, might represent the White Sox present, but he’s a key part of their future, as well. While his contract situation remains a mystery — the team would need to extend him in order to keep around past the 2019 season — he’s helping to develop the players who are planned to make up the next contending group on the South Side.

No player is more under Abreu’s guiding hand than Yoan Moncada, his fellow Cuban who just a season ago was the No. 1 prospect in baseball. Moncada’s development from top prospect into star of the future is the biggest storyline of the season for the White Sox. And Abreu, the role model in this clubhouse, is in part tasked with helping Moncada do just that.

“Our friendship is special,” Moncada said through a team translator last week. “We’re always talking about everything, having fun. He gives me advice, and I always try to make fun of him. Our relationship has been for a long time. We were friends in Cuba. And now we are rejoined here. It’s just a very good relationship. I’m blessed having him here.”

“He’s a Cuban, and it’s always special to play with a fellow Cuban countryman. He’s a great kid,” Abreu said through a team translator Monday. “I think that it’s a blessing. The White Sox did all that they could do for us to play together. I’m just enjoying the moment and every day with him. It’s special. It’s definitely a very special feeling.”

Abreu is often lauded by White Sox brass as the perfect example of what they want their young players to become. His incredible production makes that an easy comparison: He put up at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first four major league seasons. But it’s what he does outside the lines that gets the highest praise. Rick Hahn, Rick Renteria and all of Abreu’s teammates constantly talk about his work ethic, his routine, his dedication to getting better and the way he goes about his business.

Moncada’s noticed. And he sees Abreu’s latest accomplishment — getting picked as an All-Star starter — as vindication that, yes, Abreu’s methods certainly work.

“Knowing him, knowing all the effort that he puts into his preparation, his work ethic, all that work that he puts into his preparation is paying off and he’s recognized with this election,” Moncada said. “That’s something that motivates you, something that lets you know that if you do things the right way, you’re going to get rewarded. For me, it’s a motivation, and I feel really honored to share this team with him.”

Moncada’s first full season in the bigs hasn’t gone smoothly. He’s had his hot stretches — including the last couple weeks; he’s slashing .356/.453/.644 since July 2 — but he’s also had long periods of struggles. Certain aspects, such as a propensity for striking out and making errors at second base, have been constants throughout the campaign.

Renteria refers to the mistakes and the poor results as teachable moments. Does he have a proxy teacher in Abreu?

“I tell him to enjoy the game,” Abreu said. “Enjoy the game, have fun, be a little more focused on the situation of the game. But I think the key is to have fun.”

Mostly, though, Abreu is convinced that Moncada will blossom into the kind of player White Sox fans hoped he would when he brought that top-prospect track record to the organization in the Chris Sale trade. The expectations are undoubtedly high, but Abreu’s been seeing Moncada meet them for some time. The two have known each other since the younger Moncada was 17 years old.

“I think that he was born with special abilities to play this sport,” Abreu said. “Before I met him, there were a lot of people talking about him in Cuba because of his abilities, the talent that he has. And when I met him, it was a very special moment. As soon as I met him, I realized, ‘Wow, what people say about him is true.’ His body type, his ability to play the game. He’s special.”

So will the All Star of today and the All Star of tomorrow one day share the All-Star stage?

“I would like to have that opportunity. Let’s pray to God to have that opportunity,” Abreu said. “If that happens, that would be really special for us.”