The Washington Nationals announced Monday afternoon that they’ve avoided arbitration with catcher Jesus Flores and agreed to terms on a one-year deal. MLBTraderumors first reported the salary as $815,000, a $65,000 raise over his 2011 salary.
Flores, who will become a free agent after the 2013 season, will enter the year most likely as the Nationals backup catcher behind countryman Wilson Ramos. Flores hit .209 with one homer and six doubles in 86 major league at-bats last season. In Triple-A, he hit .234 with five homers and 15 doubles.
The backup role is likely not what Flores — and the Nationals — envisioned for him when he was deemed their catcher of the future a few years ago. But that was before Flores suffered a devastating shoulder injury that, ultimately, kept him away from the game for two years.
The 2011 season was Flores’ first full healthy season since 2009 and while he spent parts in both Triple-A and the major leagues, he certainly showed flashes of being the player the Nationals remembered. His throwing to second base to catch base runners vastly improved the longer he spent in the major leagues and he appeared to be getting his power stroke back at the end of the season as well.
He then went and tore up the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason (where he continues to play) with a .330 batting average, a .514 slugging percentage and .368 on-base percentage in 56 games for Magallanes. His power in the VZ Winter League — where he has 16 doubles and eight home runs — is also an encouraging sign.
Toward the end of the 2011 season, Flores expressed frustration with the prospect of being a full-time backup next season but acknowledged that his injury made his road to being a No. 1 catcher that much more difficult and is well aware of Ramos’ merits.
The Nationals still have five arbitration-eligible players to come to terms with before Tuesday’s noon deadline for the sides to exchange figures. They’ve already worked out a five-year $42 million extension with left-hander Gio Gonzalez, leaving left-hander John Lannan, right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, lefty Tom Gorzelanny, slugger Michael Morse and right-hander Tyler Clippard.