The Braves have signed catcher Kurt Suzuki, to a one-year deal. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman initially reported (Twitter link) that the two sides were finalizing a new contract, with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reporting that the deal will pay Suzuki $3.5MM in 2018. Suzuki is represented by the MVP Sports Group.
Suzuki, who turns 34 in October, came to Atlanta last winter on a one-year deal worth $1.5MM in guaranteed money. He more than delivered on that agreement, producing a career-high 18 homers as well as a .271/.343/.525 slash line over 287 plate appearances. Remarkably, Suzuki has an .868 OPS both at home and on the road, so his unexpected breakout at the plate can’t be entirely chalked up to the Braves’ move into hitter-friendly SunTrust Park.
Suzuki has markedly improved his hard-hit ball rate and his contact rate for pitches outside the strike zone, and his .255 Isolated Slugging mark is the third-best of any catcher with at least 275 PA this season (just one percentage point ahead of fourth-place Gary Sanchez). Suzuki’s defense continues to garner below-average grades as per StatCorner and Baseball Prospectus, though that is a tradeoff the Braves are willing to make given Suzuki’s bat; it also doesn’t hurt that battery-mate Tyler Flowers is one of the league’s top defensive catchers.
Between Suzuki and Flowers, the Braves have generated 4.4 fWAR from the catcher position this season, more than any other team in baseball save the Buster Posey-powered Giants. Atlanta has a $4MM club option on Flowers that seems like a no-brainer to be exercised, so the Braves head into next season looking very strong behind the plate.
Rosenthal notes that talks between Suzuki and the Braves had been ongoing “for weeks” about a new contract, so the catcher was seemingly pretty unlikely to ever hit the open market. Still, teams looking for catching help this winter now have one less ’plan B’ type of option behind the three backstops (Jonathan Lucroy, Welington Castillo, Alex Avila) who are bound to attract the most attention amongst free agent catchers.