Newly reacquired catcher Kurt Suzuki returns to D.C. as the Nationals look to bounce back from a down year. They missed the postseason for the first time since 2015 and saw the Braves (including Suzuki) win the National League East.
Now that he’s back with the Nats, can Suzuki help them with his bat as well as his his game-calling and defense behind the plate? He just had two very good years with the bat for the Braves.
Or are the Nats OK with average offense output from that spot in the order because a catcher’s value is more in how he handles the pitchers and plays defense?
MLBPipeline.com’s Jim Callis certainly recognizes the importance of offense from the catching spot. But he said it isn’t the end of the world if they don’t get major offense from that spot.
“If you are going to look at World Series clubs, the Boston Red Sox this year didn’t necessarily have an all-around catcher,” Callis said. “The Astros this year played Martín Maldonado (in the playoffs), who is a defensive guy.”
Does Suzuki’s return mean that the Nats will be less likely to go after J.T. Realmuto?
Callis, speaking to me prior to Suzuki’s new deal with the Nats, said he realizes how good a player like Realmuto would be for any team because of the offense he brings to the table. But he still believes a club can win it all without huge offensive numbers from the catching spot.
“The Atlanta Braves cobbled together Suzuki and Tyler Flowers, who are good at framing. I don’t think you necessarily have to go out and (find a strong-hitting catcher). There’s not too many guys who do both, so it’s tough to find that. (The Nats) don’t have a top catching prospect who fits that bill. Realmuto would definitely be an upgrade.”
Callis says that to get someone like Realmuto will take more than a one-for-one trade.
“It’s different animals, but you look at the Adam Eaton trade. That cost them three pretty good prospects. Realmuto is better than Eaton, although Eaton had crazy defensive metrics. He was coming off a really good season (for) Wins Above Replacement. Chris Sale is different because you could make arguments that he’s the best pitcher in baseball. He cost four prospects.
“I think if you want Realmuto, even if you are offering Victor Robles - and I, again, am just making this up - I don’t know what they offered or asked for, but it would seem it would take Robles, (Carter) Kieboom and a third guy. Typically, one prospect alone is not going to get it done (for a guy like Realmuto).”
Agreeing to terms with Suzuki could be a signal that general manager Mike Rizzo isn’t going to go in the direction of Realmuto and will now focus more on starting pitching, a second baseman and bullpen and bench depth.
Suzuki said Tuesday he would be fine with a backup role as he returns to the Nationals. He said Rizzo was very clear on how important he felt Suzuki was to their planning for 2019, but didn’t get specific about whether that means starting or backup responsibilities.
“I think at this point of my career, I don’t have an ego. I’ve never had an ego,” Suzuki said. “He said I’m the guy, whether that’s going to catch 50 games or I’m guy that’s going to catch 120 games. He made it clear that he’s going to bring me in to help the team win, and that’s the bottom line.
“When a team tells you they want you to come in and help the team win whatever capacity it is, I’m willing to do. At this stage in my career, I haven’t gotten past the first round of the playoffs. I haven’t played in a World Series before. That’s my goal. That’s the ultimate goal of every player, is to win a World Series.”
Suzuki has played against the Nats for two seasons in the same division, so he knows what the club is capable of accomplishing, and said he knew every time his team faced the Nats it would be a battle.
“I believe that, with the team we have here in Washington, we have a very good chance of it,” Suzuki said. “That was very appealing to me and excited me, and whatever (Rizzo) asks me to do I’m going to do.”