Nationals Add Catcher for Stretch Run
The Washington Nationals signed a new staring catcher on Friday, Aug. 3. Kurt Suzuki of the Oakland Athletics was acquired in exchange for minor league catcher David Freitas. Suzuki, who had to clear waivers for the trade to occur, is regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in the league and has taken over for Jesus Flores as the Nationals' first string backstop.
Nationals' General Manager Mike Rizzo made the deal with the current pennant race in mind, and the future of the franchise. The 28-year-old Suzuki, in his sixth season in the majors, is under contract through 2013, and the deal includes a vesting option for 2014. Provided that Wilson Ramos comes back from his torn knee ligament in time for next season's spring training, Rizzo plans to pair Suzuki and Ramos in the 2013 campaign.
Manager Davey Johnson described Suzuki as a "No. 1 catcher." The Nationals looked at several catchers prior to the July 31 deadline, hoping to add experience and improve their defensive catching.
"He's not a rental," Rizzo said. "He's going to be here for more than this season. He's a guy that can really take that rotation together and get it going even better than it already is. ...We got a guy who's been in the Gold Glove conversation each year he's been a major leaguer."
Suzuki will make about $1.66 million for the balance of the season. Next year, Suzuki will make $6.45 million. If he starts a minimum of 113 games in 2013, his $9.25 million option for 2014 will vest.
Over the past three seasons, Suzuki batted .252 and averaged 14 home runs. He is currently having his worst offensive season, hitting .218, which Rizzo attributes to Suzuki sharing time more often than in the past.
Even though he hasn't hit well this year, Suzuki has been hitting better lately. He has slugged .472 since the start of July. But the Nationals acquired him primarily for his defensive skills.
In a 2007 tournament, Johnson managed Suzuki for Team USA. "He'll add a little veteran presence to our catching corps," Johnson said. "He's a smart kid."
The Nationals dealt Freitas, a 2010 15th-round selection from Hawaii. The 23-year-old was batting .271 at Class A Potomac. To make room for Suzuki on their 40-man roster, the team also designated veteran catcher Carlos Maldonado for minor league assignment.