Kurt Suzuki Rumors
With two months of baseball in the books, 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. Suzuki was slated to split time behind the plate with Wilson Ramos this season, but Ramos' hamstring has forced the club to give the veteran catcher 39 starts thus far (counting tonight's game). The most recent update on Ramos, courtesy of the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, says that he'll be sidelined until around July 1st. If Ramos heals up and takes starts away from Suzuki, it will be a club option worth $8.5MM with a modest $650K buyout.
- Jamey Carroll, Twins: $2MM option vests with 401 plate appearances. Carroll has 105 PAs in 27 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.
- 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 a late May update (from Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com) indicates that he still hasn't been cleared for baseball activities.
- Lance Berkman, Rangers: $13MM option vests with 550 plate appearances. So far, Berkman has 199 plate appearances to his credit and is on pace to lock in his 2014 option with ease. In 2011, his last full season, the slugger racked up 587 PAs.
- 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 month 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 62 and 2/3 innings through eleven starts this season. It's far from a lock, but as it stands the veteran still has a chance at securing his 2014 salary. His numbers are strong as he has a 3.88 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9.
- 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.
As we close in on the month of May, let's check in on the players who have vesting options for the 2014 season...
- Kurt Suzuki, Nationals: $9.25MM option vests with 113 starts in 2013. Prior to Opening Day, the Nats announced that Suzuki would be in a timeshare with Wilson Ramos behind the plate. However, Ramos' hamstring has led to Suzuki starting 16 of the club's 23 games so far in 2013. Ramos is scheduled to rejoin the club on Monday, but if he suffers another setback, Suzuki could have a realistic shot at triggering his '14 option.
- Jamey Carroll, Twins: $2MM option vests with 401 plate appearances. Carroll has surpassed that mark in each of the last three seasons with 500+ plate appearances in each of the last two years, but he has just 18 PAs as April comes to a close.
- Wilson Betemit, Orioles: $3.2MM option vests with 324 plate appearances (combined 700 between 2012 and 2013). Betemit suffered a PCL tear during the last week of Spring Training, keeping him out of action until at least mid-May. When he returns, he figures to see less action than he did last year thanks to Manny Machado.
- Lance Berkman, Rangers: $13MM option vests with 550 plate appearances. So far, Berkman has 19 games under his belt with 80 plate appearances. He'll be within reach as long as he stays healthy. In 2011, his last full season, Berkman racked up 587 PAs for the Cardinals.
- Roy Halladay, Phillies: $20MM option vests with 259 innings pitched (combined 415 innings pitched between '12 and '13). So far, Halladay has logged 28 and 1/3 innings through five April starts but the 259 mark remains a longshot. However, it's worth nothing that Halladay has come close to that figure twice in the last six years (2008, 246 IP; 2010, 250.2 IP) and surpassed it once in his career (2003, 266 IP).
- Brett Myers, Indians: $8MM option vests with 200 innings pitched in 2013 and a passed physical after the season. Myers is expected to miss most of May due to tendinitis and a mild ligament sprain in his right elbow. So far, the right-hander has 21 and 1/3 innings to his credit in 2013.
- Barry Zito, Giants: $18MM option vests with 200 innings pitched. Zito has 23 and 2/3 innings so far through the month of April and will make his fifth start of the year tonight against the Padres.
- 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 Francisco Liriano has a $8MM club option for 2014 with the Pirates, 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. Liriano has yet to take the hill in 2013, but he is expected to make his big league debut on May 10th vs. the Mets.
The risk and reward that comes with signing an extension before or during a player’s first year of arbitration can be a tricky one. Players can take the guaranteed money and set themselves up for life or play out the arbitration years and try to cash in with a bigger payday down the road. Washington’s Denard Span, Kurt Suzuki and Gio Gonzalez all signed early extensions and talked to MLBTR about their decisions.
Outfielder Denard Span (Signed a five-year, $16.25MM deal with Minnesota in March 2010):
“It was after my first full season in the big leagues, after the '09 season. It took me a little bit of time to get to the Major Leagues, I didn’t get there at 20 or 21 years old, so at the time the Twins came to me about the extension, it just made sense for me and my family. We realized what we possibly were leaving on the table if I had good years but we also thought about the risk of if I got hurt or anything like that. It just made sense for my situation.
“My agent set out numbers and I remember after my best year in '09, he said if you just do this for the next two, three years and don’t take this contract, this is what you would get in arbitration so we compared the numbers and it was a little bit of a discount to take the contract at the time and he put that out there, but the decision was ultimately my decision.
“I’ve been on the DL the past few years so I’d like to think it worked out fine but there’s so many unknowns and that’s the risk you take when you're dealing with any kind of guaranteed contract, whether to take it or play your cards and wait for that big payday.
“I wouldn’t say it was an easy decision. It was something that me and my family had to pray about. It was a situation where we felt like if I were to get hurt and never play again, at least all the hard work that I’ve put forth in this game, I’d at least have something to walk away from. That was one of the determining factors. I realized that when this contract is up, I wouldn’t be naturally young but I wouldn’t be old. I’m going to be 31, lord willing when I’m a free agent, so what I didn’t get in the beginning, I believe that I’m going to get at the end.”
Catcher Kurt Suzuki (Signed a four-year, 16.25MM deal with Oakland in July 2010):
“It’s a tough decision obviously. At the time you work so had to get to a point to where you're starting to get paid I guess and I think I was signed during my last season before arbitration, so it was the year leading up to arbitration, and obviously I knew I was going to arbitration next year but the multi-year deal, to have the security for your family, it was hard to look that much money in the mirror and say I don’t want it, I’m going to wait. You get security for your family. It’s a pretty good chunk of change. It was hard to turn down. Some guys take that route and some guys don’t. I thought it was a deal where I felt it was enough security for my family and I. I was married at the time.
“Obviously if you sign a long term deal before arbitration years, you’re going to have to take a discount because you’re obviously not in line to make the money yet. You’re kind of predicting the future so you have to take a little bit of a discount but at the same time, how much of a discount you want to take, you have to ask yourself and what are you happy with. After deciding with my wife, we felt OK with taking the deal and having that security.
“You break it down and you have comparables. My case was a little different because they said I didn’t have many comparables. I don’t know, they just said there wasn’t many people to compare me with that signed multi-year deals so like Russell Martin was a comparable but he didn’t sign a multi-year deal so it was kind of hard to gauge off somebody for a deal.
“There’s a risk. It was an amount that my wife and I felt comfortable with and it was worth taking. Later on I might have been looking to make more, obviously if I went year to year, but at the same time, we felt that money was sufficient enough to take the deal. I’m happy with how it worked out. Obviously there’s a chance you could have made more money but at the same time, with how things [worked] out I think it was a good deal.
“Denard and I talk about it all the time. He comes from Minnesota who has the similar philosophies as Oakland to try and lock players up long term before their arbitration years and we talked about giving up money but we also talked about how its hard to turn that much money down because you’re making a really good amount of money. The Major League minimum is a really good amount, but when you’re talking millions of dollars, to turn that down is tough to do. When you get offered that much money in your face, what are you going to do?”
Pitcher Gio Gonzalez (Signed a five-year, $42MM deal with Washington in January 2012, a record at the time for a first-year arbitration eligible pitcher. He was traded from Oakland just a month earlier):
“I looked at as you know what? The organization gave me a chance to play and Mike Rizzo (Nationals GM) believed in me from the beginning and he gave me something that I felt was reasonable and gave me an opportunity and I said why not? The only way to keep getting up there and is keep improving and try to make the best of it.
“You also look at the team and the guys that were coming up, you had Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, you had all these guys and the pieces they were putting together, I felt like that rotation was going to get better and better and I was like why not be a part of it?
“I think it was just me wanting to play baseball and I think it helped secure my family and me and it almost was to the point where it was like, you can roll the dice and see what happens, but you can never promise tomorrow. I was more excited to play here than anything. It was a new team, new uniform, I think the thing that really drove me to want to play here more was the fact that ‘Rizz’ believed in me from the beginning. He didn’t question anything and he gave me a opportunity and I felt like he gave me a great price for what was reasonable. He didn’t skyrocket me but he got me right where I needed to be to go out there and prove my performance.
“I liked it. Like I said, nothing is promised tomorrow. I think what ‘Rizz’ did was more than reasonable. He thought it was fair, I thought it was fair. We worked both sides out with no complaints. I was ready to grab a baseball and start pitching. Trust me, I was thinking way beyond the money. I was thinking more like World Series. Let’s go. Great rotation, great offense and defense. I was more than happy to play for them.”
Recently, I crunched the numbers on vesting options from the last three years and found that just over 29% of them were triggered. Which players can lock in their 2014 options based on their performance this season? Let's take a look..
- Kurt Suzuki, Nationals: $9.25MM option vests with 113 starts in 2013.
- Jamey Carroll, Twins: $2MM option vests with 401 plate appearances.
- Wilson Betemit, Orioles: $3.2MM option vests with 324 plate appearances (combined 700 between 2012 and 2013).
- Lance Berkman, Rangers: $13MM option vests with 550 plate appearances.
- Roy Halladay, Phillies: $20MM option vests with 259 innings pitched (combined 415 innings pitched between '12 and '13).
- Barry Zito, Giants: $18MM option vests with 200 innings pitched.
- Johan Santana, Mets: $25MM option vests with 215 innings pitched or winning the 2013 Cy Young Award.
It's also worth noting that Francisco Liriano has a $8MM club option for 2014 with the Pirates, 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.
The Nationals are keeping their focus on their short-term chances of contending, owner Mark Lerner said during a chat with reporters (including The Washington Times' Amanda Comak) at the team's Spring Training camp. The club's payroll is now over $100MM and while they don't want to go overboard with spending, “this is a special year," Lerner said. "We have obviously incredible talent and there was a couple parts that [general manager Mike Rizzo] wanted and we said, ‘Do what you need to do,’ and that’s basically how it happened." Lerner said the Nats are concerning themselves with the next three seasons and aren't yet concerned about keeping Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper in Washington over the long term. The two young stars are team-controlled through the 2016 and 2018 seasons, respectively.
Here are some more items from the Nats' camp...
- Also from Lerner, he said that he and Rizzo would "talk when the time is right" about a contract extension. "I think this is the place where he wants to make his home and we certainly want him to be here, so I’m sure we’ll come to some understanding at some point in time," Lerner said. Rizzo's contract is only guaranteed through this season but the Nationals hold options on the general manager for 2014 and 2015.
- Kurt Suzuki hasn't talked to management about a contract extension but says he'd love to remain with the Nats beyond this season, MLB.com's Bill Ladson reports. Washington holds an $8.5MM team option on Suzuki for 2014 that right now seems unlikely to be exercised since Wilson Ramos is waiting in the wings at catcher. It's possible the Nationals could decline the option and still re-sign Suzuki at a lower price.
- Also from Ladson (Twitter link), the Nationals had interest in Chris Young during the 2010-11 offseason but didn't sign him after seeing the MRI results of Young's throwing shoulder. Young had another injury-plagued season with the Mets in 2011 but rebounded to make 20 starts in 2012. The Nats signed Young to a minor league deal today.
After an arduous start with the Dodgers, Brandon League has settled in nicely as the team's closer, writes Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. The right-hander turned his season around thanks to 18 scoreless appearances out of his last 19, giving him a 0.44 ERA during that stretch. Here's a look at the news and stories making headlines on the final Sunday of the regular season...
- Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki has exceeded all expectations for Washington after the team acquired him from the A's at the non-waiver trade deadline, writes Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com. The 28-year-old's strong performance has come on both sides of the ball, especially with his bat. "He's gotten clutch hits," Ryan Zimmerman said. "I think we all knew he was a better hitter and his track record shows he was a better hitter than what he was doing this year.
- Thanks to a strong campaign replete with increased playing time, Mets outfielder Scott Hairston heads into the offseason looking for a deal that will allow him to continue to expand his role in 2013, says Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. Hairston will be able to use his 1.9 Wins Above Replacement as a negotiating chip as he looks to become an everyday player for the entirety of the season. "I pretty much played in every role possible, and the last few weeks or so I've been playing every day," Hairston said. "It's just one of those things where I really don't know what's going to happen. I'm just going to prepare myself this offseason as if I'll be playing every day."
- The resurgence of Nate McLouth hasn't been an easy endeavor for the former All-Star, but the hard work has the scrappy outfielder playing a major role in the Orioles' success, writes Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun. "It's part of the path that God has laid out for my life. And I don't question it. Were the last couple years tough? Heck yeah they were. But I know I am stronger and better because of it," McLouth said.
Congratulations to the Braves, who clinched a postseason berth with a win over the Marlins last night. Though Atlanta still has a shot at the NL East title, they're more likely to play the National League's second Wild Card team in a one-game playoff once the regular season ends. Here are some links from the NL East...
- Trading for Gio Gonzalez and bringing back Davey Johnson were some of the most important moves the Nationals made last offseason, GM Mike Rizzo told MLB.com's Bill Ladson. Rizzo called Wilson Ramos Washington’s “catcher of the future,” but made it clear that the Nationals will have lots of playing time for Kurt Suzuki next year.
- Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen “blew his second chance” with Miami and doesn’t deserve another one in the opinion of FOX Sports writer Jon Paul Morosi. The Marlins stuck with the outspoken manager after his comments about Fidel Castro in April, but there are rumblings that his job is no longer secure.
- Someone like Nick Swisher could be “the ideal offensive fit” for the Phillies’ lineup, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News writes.
- MLBTR's Mark Polishuk previewed a possible extension for Kris Medlen earlier today.
The Braves became the latest team to beat the struggling Astros tonight, winning a 4-1 result on the back of 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball from Tim Hudson. With the Braves' win and the Nationals' split of a double-header with the Marlins today, Washington is only two games up on Atlanta in the NL East. Here's the latest from around the division...
- With the Phillies looking to keep payroll under the luxury tax threshold, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News looked at Reed Johnson, Jonny Gomes and Scott Hairston as right-handed hitting free agents who could be paired with lefty bat Nate Schierholtz for a productive outfield platoon that would come at a much cheaper cost than what the Phillies would have paid Hunter Pence in 2013.
- The Nationals don't see new catcher Kurt Suzuki as a "rental," GM Mike Rizzo told reporters (including CSN Washington's Mark Zuckerman). Suzuki is under contract through 2013 and the Nats plan to keep him along with regular catcher Wilson Ramos, who will be recovered from a torn ACL suffered in May.
- Fangraphs' Eric Seidman looks at how a Jason Bay for Heath Bell/John Buck trade would benefit both the Marlins and Mets in terms of salary relief and filling lineup holes. The two clubs had some discussions before the trade deadline about such a deal, though talks went nowhere at the time.
The Athletics traded catcher Kurt Suzuki and cash considerations to the Nationals for catcher David Freitas, the teams announced. It sounds like the A's are picking up most of Suzuki's 2012 salary and a bit of next year's salary, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (on Twitter).
The move provides the Nationals with Major League catching depth to complement Jesus Flores and Sandy Leon. Washington manager Davey Johnson said Suzuki is a "number one catcher" who will bring a "veteran presence" to the Nationals, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports (on Twitter).
Suzuki has posted a disappointing .218/.250/.286 batting line in 278 plate appearances so far in 2012. To his credit, he has prevented 38% of stolen base attempts against him this year (23 of 60) and the Athletics have an American League-best 3.43 ERA. The A's are now likely to rely more heavily on rookie catcher Derek Norris and recently-acquired backstop George Kottaras.
The 28-year-old Suzuki earns $5MM in 2012 and $6.45MM in 2013. His contract includes a $8.5MM club option for 2014 ($650K buyout). Evidently no American League team placed a claim on him when he hit the waiver wire. Every National League team but the Reds had to pass up chance to claim Suzuki for him to become available to Washington.
Freitas, 23, has a .271/.374/.407 batting line in 321 plate appearances at Class A Potomac this year. The Nationals selected him in the 15th round of the 2010 MLB draft.
Former University of Florida catcher Mike Zunino was named the Golden Spikes Award winner today, which recognizes him as the best amateur player in the county. Zunino was the third overall pick by the Mariners in last month's draft and recently signed for $4MM. Here's the latest from his new division, the AL West...
- Athletics GM Billy Beane did not deny that he has spoken to the Rays about catcher Kurt Suzuki, reports ESPN's Jim Bowden (on Twitter). Beane did say that he speaks to Tampa GM Andrew Friedman regularly, however.
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has given no indication that he's willing to trade Felix Hernandez, but SI.com's Tom Verducci says they should make their ace available. He says the reality of Hernandez's age, workload, and contract should not make him untouchable.
- The Mariners designated Adam Moore for assignment last Sunday and have yet to make a decision about what they're going to do with him according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (Twitter links). The backstop has battled knee problems but agent Mike McCann insists his client is healthy.