There is no doubt that the Braves' biggest weakness throughout the organization is at catcher. If John Coppolella's most recent Twitter Q&A is any indication, it will be one of the priorities this winter.
Starting pitching (at least two) and catching will be our focus. https://t.co/5zEQYSuVn6— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) September 13, 2016
Tyler Flowers was one of 2016's pleasant surprises. Signed dirt-cheap for just $2 million (and $3 million in 2017), Flowers hit .270/.357/.420 in 83 games. A lot of that can be attributed to an abnormally high .366 BABIP, 44 points higher than his career average. Part of the reason it jumped so randomly was a 43.8 percent hard-hit ball rating, one of the best marks in the league. It was quite the surprise from a player who has never hit all that well.
Flowers is a likely candidate to regress next season, and while he is far from chopped liver, we probably shouldn't count on anything more than his career averages. That plays more as a strong backup than a starter. I can't imagine John Coppolella feels confident counting on Flowers and Anthony Recker for 162 starts in 2017.
Here's the problem: there are so few quality catchers around right now, and the ones that are good won't be traded this winter. Guys like Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, Salvador Perez, Jonathan Lucroy and J.T. Realmuto aren't going anywhere.
And while most would argue the Braves' farm system ranks in the top-5 across all of baseball, there is little in the way of catching at the upper levels.
The name that is likely to surface this winter is Brian McCann, who makes a lot of sense for Atlanta. McCann is far from what he was during his first stint with the Braves, but he's still a solid-hitting catcher who calls a quality game behind the plate. The Braves still love the guy for what he brings off the field, too. The financials could be a bit tricky - Mac is owed $17 million the next two years - though that's not an outrageous price. There is the chance the Yankees kick in some money, too, should they really want to move him.
If the Braves don't go after McCann, they won't find much on the free agent market. Matt Wieters will be an option given his ties to Georgia. I'd pass. Wilson Ramos just shredded his ACL and his timeline for recovery could be mid-2017. There is little else on the free agent market.
Whether it's McCann, Ramos, Wieters or someone else, I wouldn't bet on the Braves going into 2017 with Flowers as their primary backstop.