The Nationals and Athletics had been discussing a trade centering around Kurt Suzuki in the days leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline, but they couldn’t get it all finalized before 4 p.m. struck on Tuesday afternoon.
Once the trade was finally settled on by both teams and Suzuki cleared waivers, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo got his guy, a guy who he has thought highly of for some time.
“Kurt gives us a veteran presence in the clubhouse,” Rizzo said. “He’s a terrific guy. I’ve known him since I scouted him at Cal State Fullerton, so we’ve got a good book on him. We know him very, very well. He’s one of the best catch-throw defensive catchers in the game. He’s a guy who’s for three years prior to this one has hit double-digit home runs in a really big park in Oakland, so we feel that his upside with the bat is going to be good. He’s hot right now, he hit very well in July, so we think we’re getting a hot hitter who can handle the staff, and a guy who’s in the Gold Glove conversation each and every year he’s been a major leaguer.
“So we feel good about the acquisition. He’s not a rental. He’s going to be here for more than this season, and he’s a guy that can really, really take that rotation together and get it going better than it already is.”
The Athletics threw in some money in the trade, which helps balance out the fact that Suzuki is still owed the prorated portion of his $5 million salary this season and $6.45 million next season. Suzuki also has a vesting option for 2014.
Wilson Ramos is expected to be fully recovered from his torn ACL by spring training next year. Rizzo feels the Suzuki acquisition gives the Nats a talented duo behind the plate which the team can rely on.
“We’re going to have two pretty darn good catchers once Ramos gets healthy at the beginning of spring training,” he said. “We’ll have a veteran presence behind a good, young player.”
Suzuki’s offensive numbers (.218, one homer, 18 RBIs in 75 games) haven’t been very strong this season, but the Nats believe in the 28-year-old’s track record at the plate.
“I think that splitting time early in the season ... he started off the season slow and then splitting time affected him,” Rizzo said. “He’s used to his 550, 600 plate appearances every year, so I think the splitting time - while he took it very, very gracefully - affected him offensively. He’s an everyday guy who’s used to playing every day and hitting every day. As anyone who plays sparingly can tell you, it’s a difficult thing to do.”
Suzuki already has 703 games of major league experience under his belt, something which will be a benefit to a young Nationals starting rotation.
“He’s a young player himself,” Rizzo said. “He’s a 28-year-old player, but he has a lot of major league time. He’s caught a lot of really good staffs and he’s got a great baseball IQ. He’s known within the industry as a great game-caller, great defensive guy and a handler of the staff. He’s much more satisfied with the pitching staff competing and pitching well than he is getting his offensive numbers.
“He’s a guy that can mentor the young guys, but a guy that we can put in the lineup and we can count on to be the guy for us in the near future.”
Rizzo said this move doesn’t say anything specifically about how the organization regards Jesus Flores, who has had a rough time offensively since assuming the starting catching role.
“I think Flo has given us a good effort,” Rizzo said. “He’s a guy who blocks the ball extremely well. He’s struggling with the bat right now, but we feel good about Flo as a catcher for us and as a guy that can contribute to a championship-caliber club.”