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Kurt Suzuki Rumors
JULY 22: There’s mutual interest in an extension, manager Ron Gardenhire told hosts Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio today (Twitter link). Gardenhire’s comments, of course, don’t mean the two sides are any closer to a deal.
JULY 21: The Twins and catcher Kurt Suzuki recently engaged in extension talks, but the two sides aren’t seeing eye to eye in terms of contract parameters, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Berardino characterizes the talks as “exploratory” but notes that establishing fair parameters looks like it will be a challenge.
The news is significant, as Suzuki figures to be a prime trade chip if the Twins aren’t able to secure a new contract with the first-time All-Star. Signed to a one-year, $2.75MM contract (with $500K of incentives), Suzuki seems a highly unlikely candidate to receive a qualifying offer after the season. As such, a trade may be the only way for the Twins to receive long-term value, should Suzuki sign elsewhere as a free agent this winter.
Suzuki, 30, has served as Minnesota’s primary backstop all season and slashed a strong .305/.364/.389. While he’s cracked just a pair of homers, he’s shown the best full-season walk rate of his career (7.5 percent) and is striking out at a career-low rate (8.8 percent). That strikeout rate is currently the sixth-lowest in all of Major League Baseball (among qualified hitters).
Defensively speaking, Suzuki has been a mixed bag. He’s thrown out a solid 24 percent of opposing base-stealers and rates as one of the best in the league at blocking potential passed balls and wild pitches, per Baseball Prospectus. However, he ranks at the bottom of the league in terms of pitch framing, per BP and Matthew Carruth at StatCorner.com.
Both the Cardinals and Orioles have seen their starting catchers go down with serious injuries, while other contenders such as the Dodgers and Blue Jays have also received below-average offense behind the plate.
ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Insider subscription required and recommended) offers a bounty of information on the trade market as we draw to within two weeks of the deadline. While you’ll want to give the piece a full read, here are some of the many highlights:
- The Rays are in no hurry to deal ace David Price, and some possible trade partners increasingly believe that he will not change hands before the deadline. The club still wants to see if a post-season run remains possible; though the club sits 9.5 games back at the break, the division does still look somewhat vulnerable. If Tampa does look to move Price, arguably the best potential trade chip in baseball, it will demand more in return than the Cubs received for Jeff Samardzija — who, you may recall, was the key piece in a package that brought back one of the game’s elite prospects in Addison Russell. Needless to say, Price is a rare commodity, especially given his additional season of control, and his potential absence from the market (combined with the A’s early strike for two other top starters) could have interesting repercussions.
- One player whose trade attention would potentially rise if Price stays put is Cole Hamels of the Phillies, who of course has plenty of value regardless. Bowden says that GMs around the league get the sense that Philadelphia will be very hesitant to move their star lefty, however. (Fellow top southpaw Cliff Lee, meanwhile, looks more and more a potential August trade piece.)
- Ultimately, while the Phillies will not conduct a true fire sale, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has indicated through conversations with his peers that the club is prepared to sell. Outfielder Marlon Byrd is the most likely to go, says Bowden, though his contract presents some complications. While the Mariners are interested in him, Bowden says that the recent free agent signee will ask that the club guarantee his $8MM option for 2016, which Seattle is not currently willing to do. The Royals could also make sense as a partner, but also appear on Byrd’s four-team no-trade list and do not want to take on that level of mid-term commitment. It would appear that Byrd’s representatives at ACES advised their client well in selecting the relatively paltry number of teams to which he could refuse a trade.
- Angels owner Arte Moreno has enabled GM Jerry Dipoto to be aggressive in trade talks, says Bowden. In addition to Huston Street and Ian Kennedy (read more on them here), the Halos have asked the Padres about righty Tyson Ross, though the Super Two hurler is unlikely to be moved. Indeed, now in the midst of his second consecutive season of high-end production, the 27-year-old starter (and his three remaining years of control) would require a significant return.
- The Athletics remain aggressive on the second base market, with GM Billy Beane also said to be exploring more creative means of improving his club. Oakland is not inclined to deal away shortstop prospect Daniel Robertson after moving their top prospect, says Bowden, with the club’s internal evaluators believing that he could have as much future value as the more-hyped Russell.
- The Reds are still looking to add a hitter, with Ben Zobrist of the Rays making a perfect match on paper given his positional flexibility and the club’s current injury situation. (Of course, the same could be said of several other clubs.) With Josh Willingham of the Twins set to hit free agency, he has also been looked at by Cincinnati.
- Bowden provides several other interesting notes. Among them: the Braves have canvassed the market for a southpaw reliever and could be interested in James Russell of the Cubs and Oliver Perez of the Diamondbacks. The Dodgers will likely add a starter. The Cardinals are planning to scout Twins‘ catcher Kurt Suzuki as they assess things behind the plate. And the Giants remain interested in a second base addition in the event that Marco Scutaro cannot stay healthy and productive.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Arizona Diamondbacks | Atlanta Braves | Ben Zobrist | Chicago Cubs | Cincinnati Reds | David Price | James Russell | Josh Willingham | Kansas City Royals | Kurt Suzuki | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | Marlon Byrd | Minnesota Twins | Newsstand | Oakland Athletics | Oliver Perez | Philadelphia Phillies | San Diego Padres | San Francisco Giants | Seattle Mariners | St. Louis Cardinals | Tampa Bay Rays | Tyson Ross
Red Sox players made news this winter by campaigning openly for the re-signing of Mike Napoli. And Dustin Pedroia even agreed to defer salary in his extension, in part to free payroll space to make a run (which ultimately proved unsuccessful) at retaining Jacoby Ellsbury. As WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes, staff ace Jon Lester — one of the players who pushed to keep Napoli — will almost certainly benefit from much the same treatment. The clubhouse clearly wants Lester to be kept in Boston, says Bradford, who notes that there was “some grumbling” after reports emerged of the club’s somewhat underwhelming extension offer.
Here’s more out of the American League:
- Southpaw Sean Burnett, who signed a two-year, $8MM deal with the Angels before the 2013 season, learned today that he has suffered a torn UCL for the second time in his career, tweets Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. Burnett had just worked his way back from an elbow injury that cut him down after just 13 appearances in 2013, and now seems destined to miss the rest of the year. That makes it rather likely, of course, that the club will decide to pay him a $500K buyout rather than picking up his $4.5MM option for 2015. The Halos currently feature only one lefty in the pen in Wade LeBlanc. Though the team has some options stashed in the upper minors, such as Nick Maronde and Buddy Boshers, none has Burnett’s track record.
- As expected, the Orioles are working to secure an extension of the June 1 opt-out date in starter Johan Santana‘s minor league deal, reports Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com. Assuming that can be worked out, Baltimore hopes to set Santana on a course that could bring him back to the majors as soon as June 18.
- Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki said he would be open to extension talks if the club is interested, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “It’s something that I think you’d be crazy not to listen,” he said. “You’re always open to those things.” Berardino notes that Minnesota previously extended former backstop Ryan Doumit at a similar point in the 2012 season, after originally signing him to a one-year deal as a free agent (as was the case with Suzuki). Nevertheless, a source says that it is still “too early” to consider a new deal for Suzuki, who could also be setting himself up as a nice trade piece with his .297/.363.405 start.
- While the Twins seem to have made the right call in locking up Suzuki to a modest deal, they missed out on an even bigger opportunity back in 2009 — though the club was not alone in that respect. As Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets, Minnesota was among about ten other clubs that made offers to outfielder Gregory Polanco which came in just under the Pirates’ winning bid of $175K.
Let’s take a look at a few notes out of the American League to round out the evening:
- While recent developments have made free agent infielder Stephen Drew a more enticing fit for the Red Sox, the club has yet to re-engage agent Scott Boras, reports Alex Speier of WEEI.com. The fractured right finger of Will Middlebrooks – to say nothing of his sluggish play — has clouded Boston’s third base picture, and it now seems quite unlikely that the team will pick up a draft choice through another club inking the compensation-bound Drew. (With only weeks remaining until the amateur draft, interested clubs will presumably wait until the draft passes and signing Drew no longer requires the sacrifice of a pick.) While Speier notes that the Sox’ approach could still change before the draft, it bears noting that Drew himself is now free of the compensation as a practical matter and has little to lose by waiting for his market to open up.
- The Angels could stand not only to add to the back of the bullpen, but also the starting rotation, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (video link). Los Angeles looked to add Ian Kennedy last year, says Rosenthal, who opines that the club might be interested in dealing for a mid-level arm like Dillon Gee of the Mets. While payroll space is probably not much of an issue, the club does not have a deep set of prospects from which to deal.
- Veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki has turned his career trajectory on its head through his first 137 plate appearances of 2014, posting an excellent .322/.390/.424 line for the Twins. Needless to say, that is a nice return on the one-year, $2.75MM contract he signed over the offseason. Minnesota could be interested in discussing an extension with Suzuki before the summer is out, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, though the club has not yet engaged him. Suzuki has hit well enough that the ZiPS projection system now likes him to produce at a league-average rate for the rest of the year; combined with his well-regarded defensive skills, clubhouse presence, and relatively young age of 30, Suzuki could be setting himself up as a fairly attractive trade chip and future free agent target if the Twins don’t move to lock him up.
JANUARY 9: Suzuki can earn as much as $500K in playing time incentives, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Bonus thresholds are tied to games started at the catcher position: Suzuki would earn $100K upon his 85th and 95th starts behind the dish and $150K apiece at the 105 and 115-start levels.
DECEMBER 23: With Joe Mauer on the move to first base, the Twins had a need for a veteran catcher, and they addressed that issue today by announcing the signing of Kurt Suzuki to a one-year, $2.75MM contract that reportedly contains additional incentives. Suzuki is represented by the MVP Sports Group.
Originally drafted by the Athletics, Suzuki was traded from the A's to the Nationals in 2012. This past summer, he was traded from Washington back to Oakland. The 30-year-old batted .232/.290/.337 with five homers between Washington and Oakland. Suzuki has seen his power dip over the past two seasons, but he did average 14 homers per season from 2009-11.
Suzuki has thrown out 26 percent of opposing base stealers throughout his career, though that number fell to 12 percent in 2013. He was significantly better in 2012, when he picked off 30 percent of potential thieves. In 2013, he was above-average in blocking pitches, per Fangraphs, and was average in terms of pitch-framing, per Matthew Carruth's report at StatCorner.
Now that concussion issues have forced Mauer to first base on a full-time basis, Suzuki will split time behind the dish with rookie Josmil Pinto. The 25-year-old Pinto burst onto the scene in 2013 with a huge minor league line of .309/.400/.482 between Double-A and Triple-A. He followed that up with an even more impressive September cameo in the Majors, slashing .342/.398/.566 with four homers in 83 PAs.
However, Pinto has been hampered by shoulder issues in Winter Ball and is not considered a strong defender behind the plate yet, so Suzuki could see a significant amount of time in the Twins' lineup. Switch-hitting outfielder/catcher Chris Herrmann could also see some time behind the plate if Pinto's shoulder problem lingers or if the Twins feel he needs a bit more work at Triple-A.
Minnesota recently traded one of its catching options, Ryan Doumit, to Atlanta in exchange for lefty Sean Gilmartin. Though Suzuki doesn't hit as well as Doumit, he's a superior defender, which the Twins likely wanted to acquire given Pinto's inexperience and injury. In adding Suzuki, they've effectively upped their catcher defense in exchange for some offense while saving $750K.
The Twins and Mariners are possibilities for veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The Cubs are also among the clubs with interest, as noted by Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle last week.
While Minnesota likes the 30-year-old, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press (Twitter link) hears from a person with direct knowledge that nothing is going on yet between the club and the catcher. Suzuki hit .232/.290/.337 with five homers in his second straight season split between the A's and Nationals. Though he's typically been solid in terms of catching base stealers, Suzuki caught just eight of 65 potential thieves in 2013 (12 percent) and graded out as one of the league's worst in terms of pitch-framing. He was highly adept at blocking pitches in the dirt, per Fangraphs, trailing only Yadier Molina in that regard.
As Day Three of the Winter Meetings in Orlando comes to a close, plenty of free agents are still seeking new teams. Here are the latest updates on a few of them:
- Rockies people tell Troy Renck of the Denver Post (Twitter link) that nothing has changed with Nelson Cruz. There's interest in the free agent outfielder, but it's not being characterized as serious at this point.
- The Mariners have been ardent Cruz pursuers from the start of the winter, and one baseball source tells Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com they'll continue to be in the mix for him even after adding Robinson Cano, Corey Hart, and Logan Morrison.
- Teams believe reliever Joaquin Benoit's likeliest destinations are the Indians, Padres, Mariners, Cubs, or Yankees, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.
- Agent Scott Boras says client Jose Valverde, who turns 36 in March, intends to continue his big league career and has drawn interest from two big league teams, writes James Schmehl of MLive.com. The Tigers released their former closer in August after his Triple-A reboot didn't go as well as he hoped.
- Earlier in the evening, assistant GM Bobby Evans expressed optimism that San Francisco would find a left fielder by trade or free agency by the day's end, with Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com naming Franklin Gutierrez as a candidate. However, the Giants no longer expect resolution on their left field situation tonight, says Baggarly (via Twitter). The CSN Bay Area scribe also takes a more in-depth look at some of the club's options.
- Catcher Kurt Suzuki is talking with the Rockies, Cubs, and Twins, tweets Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Here's the latest from the American League West:
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels says the club is still looking for a durable backup catcher, reports T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. Though the recent spate of catcher moves took away some hypothetical options, Daniels said that "nobody has come off the board that we really pursued." Sullivan notes that Kurt Suzuki is one player in whom Texas has interest.
- In looking to add a backstop, the Rangers were close to adding J.P. Arencibia via trade before he was non-tendered by the Blue Jays, Sullivan reports. But the club did not want to add Arencibia unless it could work out terms on a new deal, and ultimately that did not happen. He joins Suzuki as possible free agent options for Texas.
- The Athletics' signing of left-handed starter Scott Kazmir to a two-year, $22MM deal kicked off a flurry of big moves for the A's. MLB.com's Jane Lee provides a summation of the considerations that brought him to Oakland, with Kazmir saying he loves the team and fan base and looks forward to throwing in the Coliseum. For GM Billy Beane, the club liked Kazmir's stuff, restored fastball velocity, overall body of work in 2013, and young age (29). Though Kazmir's up-and-down career trajectory might have scared off some clubs, Beane says that he views Kazmir's "character-building experience" of getting back to a high level of performance as a positive.
- Before Phil Hughes decided to take a three-year deal with the Twins, the Angels made him an offer of a "nice one-year deal," reports Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (via Twitter). As FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal noted in discussing several of MLB's recent moves, baseball sources believe Hughes could have landed up to $9MM or $10MM on a one-year deal, though another source told Rosenthal that no offers of that magnitude had actually been made.
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik declined to comment on whether or not the club is pursuing Robinson Cano, reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times, saying that the club is keeping its talks "in house" but has "a lot of dialogue going on a lot of fronts." Talking generally about offering long-term deals, Zduriencik indicated that the club prefers to minimize risk but must "adapt to the market." While saying he would "like to add three" bats to the club, the Mariners GM noted that the club would still also be interested in adding "another starting pitcher" or even another pen piece.
- Ultimately, Zduriencik confirmed the widespread view that Seattle is looking to add impact to its roster. "It was a clear goal of ours to get us to a point where we would have young and inexpensive players throughout the line-up and I think we've accomplished that goal," said Zduriencik. "I always felt there would be a time where [we] would have to augment this club. I think we are at that time."
Suzuki, 30, batted .232/.290/.337 with five homers in his second straight season split between the A's and Nationals. Though he's typically been solid in terms of catching base stealers, Suzuki caught just eight of 65 potential thieves in 2013 (12 percent) and graded out as one of the league's worst in terms of pitch-framing. He was highly adept at blocking pitches in the dirt, per Fangraphs, trailing only Yadier Molina in that regard.
Free agent catchers are flying off the board, with A.J. Pierzynski's recent agreement with the Red Sox serving as the latest example. However, since their signing of Soto kicked off a string of seven Major League contracts for free agent catchers, the Rangers have been content to let more expensive options go to other teams.
After Soto's one-year, $3.05MM contract was finalized, the Rangers said they signed him to be their primary catcher in 2014. Those comments were met with speculation, as GM Jon Daniels made similar implications after signing Soto last offseason, only to turn and sign Pierzynski a few weeks later. With options dwindling, Soto could be their man this time around.
Today's news out of the AL and NL Central..
- The Brewers are considering bringing back Corey Hart to fill their first-base need and it appears they may favor him over other first base options like Mets first baseman Ike Davis and free agent Justin Morneau, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. A Brewers person didn't look overly enthused when asked about Davis or Morneau and added that the rumored trade of Norichika Aoki for Davis would not be happening.
- Agent Scott Boras says that he's gotten good interest from a "variety of teams" on client Mike Pelfrey and said the Twins are amongst those clubs, tweets Phil Miller of the Star Tribune. He also claims that Pelfrey holds a multi-year offer.
- The Cubs don’t plan to drop big bucks on a free agent catcher like Brian McCann or Jarrod Saltalamacchia and sources tell Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com they have their eye on a cheaper target: Kurt Suzuki. The Cubs are seeking out a veteran backstop to complement Welington Castillo.
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter) there's been ongoing trade interest in Nate Schierholtz since mid-season.
- Justin Masterson will listen if the Indians want to approach him with a multi-year offer, writes Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer.