Kurt Suzuki Rumors

Twins Notes: Buxton, Milone, Suzuki, Willingham

Twins GM Terry Ryan was on-hand in New Britain tonight to see top prospect Byron Buxton‘s Double-A debut, but the evening took a scary turn for the five-tool center fielder. Buxton collided with right fielder Mike Kvasnicka and was unconscious on the field for roughly 10 minutes before being driven away in an ambulance and has been diagnosed with a concussion, Ryan said on the MiLBtv broadcast (Twitter links via MiLB.com’s Ash Marshall). It’s been a lost season for the consensus top prospect in baseball, who had already missed much of the season with wrist injuries. Ryan notes that the injury could have been much worse, and reports indicate that Kvasnicka, a Minnesota native whom the Twins acquired from the Astros in minor trade last season, was able to walk off the field (though he, too, was taken to the hospital as a precaution).

More links on what has been a scary night for the Twins organization…

  • Recently acquired left-hander Tommy Milone tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he isn’t worried about the fact that the Twins may have stashed him in the minor leagues for a week in order to delay his free agency by a season. Milone will finish the year just shy of three full years of service time but said, “…as long as I’m here, I’m happy. You never know what’s going to happen four years from now.” As Berardino points out, Milone will still qualify for arbitration this offseason as a Super Two player, which lessens the sting a bit. Berardino notes that both Travis Wood and Ivan Nova had comparable ERAs and innings totals to Milone heading into arbitration, and the duo received first-time salaries of $3.9MM and $3.3MM, respectively.
  • Berardino also summarizes the Twins’ trades to this point, noting that the club saved approximately $7.93MM by trading Kendrys Morales, Kevin Correia and Josh Willingham. He also has a third piece noting that Kurt Suzuki is on pace to earn all $500K of his playing time bonuses after already receiving a $25K bonus for making the All-Star team. That would boost his salary from $2.75MM to $3.275MM.
  • Speaking of Willingham, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer runs down some reasons that the Indians neglected to claim the former Twin on waivers — a decision that resulted in the division-rival Royals landing him. The Indians, who had interest in Willingham as a free agent back in 2011-12 and recently lost David Murphy and Nick Swisher to the DL, didn’t want to pay the remaining $2MM on Willingham’s contract. They also were hesitant about his injury history and didn’t want to block playing time from younger players.

Central Notes: Johnson, Bullpen Issues, Suzuki

The closest pennant races are in MLB’s two Central divisions. Here’s the latest from both the NL and AL Central:

  • The Brewers sense they were the runner-up for the services of right-hander Jim Johnson, who signed a minor league deal with the Tigers on Tuesday, tweets MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy.
  • Despite the lack of offense from their first base platoon of Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay, the Brewers were wise not to re-sign first baseman Corey Hart this past winter, opines Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Hart, who missed six weeks with a strained left hamstring earlier this season and is on the disabled list for second time with a bruised right knee, has posted a meager slash of .203/.278/.314 with five home runs in 230 plate appearances.
  • Also within Haudricourt’s article, he details the injury and performance issues which have hobbled the Brewers‘ bullpen. Haudricourt notes the Brewers could still acquire a reliever this month, but there is no guarantee they will have a chance to claim one based on their waiver position.
  • The Cardinals could also be facing an issue with their bullpen, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick GooldIn two of the past three years, Goold notes, the Cardinals have reached the World Series in the same season they had to change closers in the final month with fatigue being a contributing factor both times and it could happen again considering the recent usage of Trevor Rosenthal. Manager Mike Matheny acknowledges he has “ridden him hard,” but pointed to Rosenthal’s save success when asked about overuse. Goold reports Scott Boras, Rosenthal’s agent, has spoken to the club and his client about the workload.
  • Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki did not request a no-trade clause when he negotiated his recent contract extension, writes Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer PressWe didn’t think it was necessary,” Suzuki told Berardino.

Twins Extend Kurt Suzuki

The Twins have signed catcher Kurt Suzuki to a two-year, $12MM contract extension with a third-year vesting option, according to director of communications Dustin Morse.  The vesting option, like his annual salary, is for $6MM and can be triggered based on plate appearances in 2016. Suzuki is represented by MVP Sports Group.

MLB: New York Yankees at Minnesota Twins

Last offseason, the Twins made the decision to move Joe Mauer from catcher to first base, inking Suzuki to a one-year, $2.75MM deal as the star’s replacement behind the dish. Suzuki has performed well, hitting .304/.367/.386 in 347 plate appearances and making his first All-Star team.  He hit .235/.290/.353 in the three years prior, so his offense has been a nice surprise for the Twins.

Defensively, Suzuki certainly passes the eye test and has tons of experience behind the plate. He also seems to have a good reputation among the pitchers who he is responsible for tending to, and is an able blocker. But he has struggled in the pitch-framing department, ranking dead last in baseball with -17.1 runs on the year according to Stat Corner. Baseball Prospectus, likewise, rates Suzuki as a positive in stopping balls in the dirt but a negative at winning strikes.

It does not seem that the Twins achieved much of a discount by locking up Suzuki, but they certainly did prevent him from finding a bigger deal and bolting after the season. That has plenty of value for a club that will surely be looking to bring several young pitchers on line this year and next. For Suzuki, signing now not only let him choose to stay in place (after bouncing around quite a bit in recent years) but also protected him from a market that can often be hard to gauge. While he looked like one of the few desirable catchers set to hit free agency, neither are there many teams that looked to be big players for his services.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the extension.  Yahoo’s Tim Brown first reported the term, with Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (via Twitter) and Phil Miller of the Star Tribune (via Twitter) providing information on the vesting option.  Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Twins, Suzuki Again Discussing Extension

11:17am: ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that the two sides are still far apart in extension talks, and Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish also tweets that no extension is close.

10:54am: The Twins have re-started extension talks with catcher Kurt Suzuki, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). There is a reasonable chance that agreement will be reached, he adds.

Last we heard, an extension seemed unlikely, and Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweeted this morning that traction was nonexistent, but apparently a new effort is underway. That being said, prior reports have suggested that Minnesota could still look to deal Suzuki in August if it holds onto him and cannot nail down an extension. Suzuki’s trade market looks to have dried up significantly, with the Cardinals acquiring A.J. Pierzynski and reports indicating that the Orioles are not interested.


Stark’s Latest: Lester, Burnett, Lee, Kennedy, Lackey, Suzuki

Jon Lester remains the most-discussed name at the moment, and ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark contributes his take after discussing the lefty with several club executives who will not be involved in any deals. He discusses the possibility of eight teams going after Lester: the Dodgers, Cardinals, Mariners, Orioles, Blue Jays, Braves, Brewers, and Pirates. Though Los Angeles still seems unwilling to part with any of its premium prospects, Stark tabs them the likeliest landing spot.

Of course, Stark also provides a number of important updates from elsewhere in the market in his latest post. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Talks between the Phillies and Pirates regarding A.J. Burnett are “all but dead,” writes Stark. The issue is that Burnett has been unwilling to give an assurance that he would not pick up his player option for next season, creating too much financial uncertainty for Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, the Phillies have not yet abandoned hope of dealing fellow starter Cliff Lee before the deadline, though an official says that they want significant prospects in return.
  • Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if David Price of the Rays or Ian Kennedy of the Padres are moved, with Stark writing that the former will be a last-minute decision and the latter remains a 50-50 proposition. With the GM seat still unfilled in San Diego, and given that Kennedy remains under control for next year, the club is unwilling to move him unless the return includes a starter capable of stepping into the rotation along with another prospect.
  • The Red Sox are asking for a strong return on John Lackey in discussions. The club wants an established major league starter, presumably with additional control. If that is part of the return on Lester, however, the club might be open to more flexibility in a return for Lackey.
  • The Twins are telling inquiring clubs that they have not yet given up on extending Kurt Suzuki, and could keep him past the deadline. If that occurs, the team could still consider August deals, though the waiver process (and Suzuki’s cheap contract) could prove a hindrance.
  • Scouting trips can obviously be undertaken for many purposes, but Stark provides a few interesting ones to note: The Rangers have scouted the Nationals‘ top affiliate this weekend; though rumors quickly died down, Washington was said to have inquired about Adrian Beltre. The White Sox are looking at the affiliates of the YankeesBlue Jays, and Red Sox as they consider offers for John Danks. And the Red Sox have scouted the Triple-A affiliate of the Braves, who are said to be very interested in lefty Andrew Miller.

Orioles Unlikely To Move Top Young Arms, Not In On Kurt Suzuki

The Orioles have given multiple executives the impression that they are unwilling to deal any of their best young pitching prospects to add to the MLB roster, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Sherman lists Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, and Hunter Harvey as the prospects that the team seems uninterested in dealing.

MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli reported last night that Baltimore was as hesitant as ever to move those types of arms, though there had been plenty of interest. “We are looking for pitching depth,” Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette told Sherman. “We are going to try to supplement our team.” As Duqutte’s words seem to indicate, a less costly arm appears to be the more likely outcome for Baltimore.

Additionally, a source tells Sherman that the team is not in on Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki, though catcher remains another area that the Orioles are looking into. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports also just reported (on Twitter) that the club is not going after Suzuki. Baltimore had appeared one of the few good matches for Suzuki, who seems to have a fairly small market but remains perhaps the most attractive available backstop.


Suzuki Extension Looks Unlikely For Twins

JULY 28: There were no extension talks between the Twins and Suzuki over the weekend, Wolfson tweets. One source tells him that “nothing’s going to get done” by Thursday.

JULY 25: The Minnesota field staff is making the case that the club should hold onto Suzuki, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. It is not likely that an extension will come together quickly, however, says Rosenthal.

We looked earlier today at the latest on trade interest in Suzuki.

JULY 24: Extension talks are ongoing, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter). Suzuki’s representatives at MVP Sports are seeking a contract commensurate with the annual values given to free agents Carlos Ruiz (three years, $26MM), Jarrod Saltalamacchia ($21MM over three years), and A.J. Pierzynski (one year, $8.25MM) over the last offseason.

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.


Cards, O’s Among Clubs With Interest In Kurt Suzuki

The Cardinals and Orioles are among the teams that have interest in acquiring Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Both clubs have seen their starting catchers go down with significant injuries, as Matt Wieters is out for the season following Tommy John surgery, while Yadier Molina is out through mid-to-late September with a torn ligament in his thumb.

Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press recently reported that the Twins have had extension talks with Suzuki, but the two sides are far apart. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reported yesterday that the first-time All-Star was looking for salaries commensurate with those achieved by Carlos Ruiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia this past offseason — a significant step up from the one-year, $2.75MM deal that Suzuki inked with Minnesota over the winter.

It’s not a shock to see Suzuki ask for a sizable raise, nor is it surprising to see clubs with a need behind the plate showing interest. The 30-year-old is enjoying one of the finest seasons of his career, batting .308/.367/.393 with a pair of homers in 331 plate appearances. Suzuki’s contract contains $500K of performance incentives, per Berardino, but even if it’s assumed that he maxes out his earning potential, he’d be owed roughly $1.17MM from now through season’s end — an affordable sum for nearly any contender (Minnesota could, of course, simply pay the remaining salary to make him that much more enticing to clubs).

Currently, the Cardinals are using the light-hitting Tony Cruz behind the plate, while the Orioles have gone with a combination of rookie Caleb Joseph and trade acquisition Nick Hundley.


Bowden On Price, Hamels, Byrd, Angels, A’s, Reds, More

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.

AL Notes: Lester, Burnett, Santana, Suzuki, Polanco

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.