Kurt Suzuki Rumors

AL Notes: Red Sox, Drew, Angels, Suzuki

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.

Twins Sign Kurt Suzuki

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.

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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.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle first reported the agreement (Twitter links). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the terms of the contract (Twitter link).


Kurt Suzuki Has Interest from Twins, Mariners

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.



Free Agent Rumors: Cruz, Benoit, Valverde, Giants

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.


AL West Notes: Rangers, Arencibia, Kazmir, Hughes, Mariners

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."

Rangers Interested In Kurt Suzuki

The Rangers are looking at Kurt Suzuki as an option to pair with Geovany Soto behind the dish in 2014, according to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan.

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.


Central Rumors: Hart, Pelfrey, Suzuki, Cubs, Indians

Today's news out of the AL and NL Central..


A’s Exercise Options On Crisp, Anderson; Options On Young, Suzuki Declined

The Athletics announced that they have exercised their $7.5MM club option on Coco Crisp as well as their $8MM club option on Brett Anderson and declined their $11MM option and Chris Young and $8.5MM option on Kurt Suzuki. Young and Suzuki will receive respective buyouts of $1.5MM and $650K.

The news comes as a $7.5MM birthday gift for Crisp, who turns 34 years old today. The switch-hitting center fielder enjoyed the best offensive season of his 12-year career in 2013, slashing .261/.335/.444 with a career-best 22 homers. He chipped in 21 steals in 26 tries and was six runs above average in center field, per The Fielding Bible's Defensive Runs Saved metric (he was roughly average, per UZR), making the decision a no-brainer.

Anderson, who turns 26 in February, pitched just 44 2/3 innings for the A's this season. He compiled an unsightly 6.04 ERA in that time, though metrics such as FIP (3.85) and xFIP (3.26) suggest he was the recipient of some misfortune. Indeed, his 9.3 K/9 and 69.2 percent ground-ball rate seem to indicate that he should've had better superficial numbers, though his 4.2 BB/9 rate was a drastic departure from his typically excellent control.

Anderson would have been arbitration eligible had the A's declined his option. They could've had him for less than the $8MM he will receive in 2014, but declining his option would have also negated the $12MM club option the team holds on his free agent season. Essentially GM Billy Beane decided to pay Anderson an extra $1-1.5MM with the belief that he will remain healthy and look like a bargain at $12MM in 2015, as his career numbers through 2012 indicate he would.

Young hit just .200/.280/.379 with 12 homers and 10 steals in 2013 after coming over from the D-Backs in the three-team deal that sent Heath Bell and Cliff Pennington to Arizona and prospects to the Marlins.

Suzuki was acquired in an August waiver trade that was necessitated by injuries to John Jaso and Derek Norris. He batted a strong .303/.343/.545 with a pair of homers in 35 plate appearances for the A's but hit just .232/.290/.337 overall between the Nationals and A's. With Jaso and Norris both present in the long-term, Suzuki will look for a new team this offseason, as Oakland likely doesn't have a roster spot for him even on a cheaper one-year deal.


Athletics Acquire Kurt Suzuki

Kurt Suzuki is headed back to Oakland.  After just over a calendar year in Washington, the Nats and A's have officially announced a trade that will send Suzuki back to Oakland in exchange for Class-A right-hander Dakota Bacus Oakland will reportedly assume about $675K of Suzuki's remaining $1.34MM salary as well.  The Athletics' catching depth is currently compromised, with John Jaso on the DL for a concussion and Derek Norris suffering a broken toe suffered on Tuesday. 

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It's likely that Suzuki, a favorite of manager Bob Melvin, will platoon with current A's backstop Stephen Vogt.  A 29-year-old Hawaii native, Suzuki was originally drafted out of Cal State-Fullerton by the A's in the second round in 2004, a few picks after Hunter Pence and Dustin Pedroia.  The Red Sox, in fact, wrestled between picking Pedroia or Suzuki in that draft, wrote WEEI's Alex Speier a few years ago.

Instead, Suzuki debuted with the A's in 2007 and managed to hit 15 home runs in 2009.  The following season, he signed a four-year, $16.25MM extension with Oakland, which still marks the largest contract for a catcher with between three and four years of big league service (though it has since been topped by Buster Posey and Carlos Santana, who had less than three years).  Suzuki talked about the extension in-depth with B.J. Rains for MLBTR in Spring Training this year.  The contract has an $8.5MM club option for 2014 that becomes guaranteed with 113 starts this year, but Oakland does not have enough games remaining for that to become possible.  So, it will remain a club option, which is likely to be declined.  

Suzuki is surely feeling déjà vu with this trade, having been dealt to a contender on Aug. 3 last year when the Nats acquired him for minor league catcher David Freitas.  Suzuki had a nice run offensively for the Nationals last year, but he's dropped off in 2013, hitting just .222/.283/.310 with three homers.  Now, he's returned to the organization that drafted him, tweeting that he's "pumped to be back and ready to go make a run at this."

Bacus, 22, was selected by the A's in the ninth round of the 2012 draft. In 121 1/3 innings for Beloit this season, he's posted a 3.56 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. At the time of the draft, Baseball America noted (subscription required) that Bacus — Indiana State's ace — led his team to a Missouri Valley Conference championship. He sits 90-92 mph with his fastball and features a slider and change-up, though his lack of swinging strikes makes him profile as a No. 4 starter.

Amanda Comak of the Washington Times was the first to report that Suzuki was headed to the A's, and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Nationals would receive Bacus and roughly $675K of salary relief.

Steve Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


2014 Vesting Options Update

As we turn to August, here's a look at the players who have vesting options for the 2014 season..

  • Kurt Suzuki, Nationals: $9.25MM option vests with 113 starts in 2013.  The Nats were relying on Suzuki during the first half of the season when Wilson Ramos was sidelined, but Ramos returned to action on July 4th, sliding Suzuki back down the depth chart.  The 29-year-old is 45 starts shy of the needed mark with 52 games remaining, so Suzuki's chances aren't too strong.  if/when the option doesn't vest, it'll become a club option worth $8.5MM with a modest $650K buyout.
  • Jamey Carroll, Twins: $2MM option vests with 401 plate appearances. Carroll has 185 PAs in 53 games this season.  The veteran has had more than his needed total in each of the last three seasons with 500+ plate appearances in each of the last two years, but he'll have his work cut out for him in 2013.
  • Wilson Betemit, Orioles: $3.2MM option vests with 324 plate appearances (combined 700 between 2012 and 2013). Betemit underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on March 26th and he'll begin a rehab assignment on Tuesday.  Needless to say, his option won't vest.
  • Lance Berkman, Rangers: $13MM option vests with 550 plate appearances.  Berkman has 282 plate appearances to his credit and the good news is that despite whispers that he might call it quits after his latest hip troubles, he pledges to return this season.  Unfortunately for him, his rehab assignment isn't scheduled to get underway until the end of this week and 550 sounds like a longshot.
  • Roy Halladay, Phillies: $20MM option vests with 259 innings pitched (combined 415 innings pitched between '12 and '13).  This was a longshot to begin with, but shoulder surgery earlier this season makes this one impossible.
  • Brett Myers, Indians: $8MM option vests with 200 innings pitched in 2013 and a passed physical after the season.  After logging 21 and 1/3 innings in 2013, Myers was sidelined with tendinitis and a mild ligament sprain in his right elbow and has yet to return.  When he does come back, it's possible that the Tribe will move him to the bullpen.
  • Barry Zito, Giants: $18MM option vests with 200 innings pitched. Zito has racked up 111 and 1/3 innings through 21 starts this season.  Zito probably won't get to lock in his sizable 2014 salary.
  • Johan Santana, Mets: His $25MM option could have vested with 215 innings pitched or winning the 2013 Cy Young Award, but he won't have a chance at that thanks to a season-ending tear in his pitching shoulder.

It's also worth noting that Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano has a $8MM club option for 2014, but it can vest at any of three levels – $5MM, $6MM, or $8MM – based on the number of days he is not on the DL this year with a recurrence of his right arm injury.  It's not known how many days the hurler must steer clear of right arm trouble in order to trigger each level of his option, however.  The left-hander made his season debut on May 11th and has a 2.02 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 through 16 starts this season.