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  • What to do with Kurt Suzuki?

    Kurt Suzuki is out producing the expectations of even the most optimistic Twins fan. He’s 30 years old and coming in to 2014 had a career line of .253/.309/.375, and even that is rosy considering what he’s done the past two seasons, .234/.282/.332 (for reference, Talk to Contact favorite, Drew “Boat Anchor” Butera, is hitting .231/.300/.385 in 2014). So the Twins bought low on a guy and brought him in with the hopes that he could help out Josmil Pinto, and because Suzuki is seen as a good “clubhouse guy.”

    Minnesota Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki (8) hits a two-run single against the Chicago White Sox in the third inning of an opening day baseball game at U.S Cellular Field in Chicago on March 31, 2014. (Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)

    Through his first 34 games of the year, Suzuki is hitting .332/.388/.430. He has an OBP north of .380 against both left and right handed pitchers. The Twins like what he’s doing with the bat so much they have stuck him in the lineup four times as the starting designated hitter.


    Originally published at http://knuckleballsblog.com/

    Maybe just a hot start, right? He’s actually been better in May than he was in March and April. He started hot, and now he is getting hotter. Over his entire career, Suzuki has played better in the first month of the year than any other month, exactly what you might expect from a catcher that the Oakland Athletics ran out as their everyday catcher at least 117 times for five straight years (he caught his fewest games since his rookie season last year, 93).

    Kurt Suzuki is doing all of this on a one-year, $2.75 million dollar contract. the Twins bought low and now they are in a great position to turn Suzuki into some surplus value via trade. Or, because he is only 30 years old, the Twins might consider signing him to a modest contract extension, just as they did with Ryan Doumit.*

    *Ryan Doumit hit .275/.320/.461 in 2012 in his first year (age 31 season) with the Twins. The Twins extended him for two additional years with an extra $7 million dollars in late June 2012, making his total deal with the Twins three years/$10 million. With Doumit, the Twins were basically getting output from Doumit in line with his career numbers, so there was a little less risk, but in two of the three seasons prior to coming to Minnesota, Doumit either hit poorly or was injured (or both), so they were able to sign (what looks like now) such a team friendly deal. The Twins ultimately flipped Doumit to Atlanta** following a poor 2013 season which saw Doumit struggle at the plate and with concussion issues. He’s hitting .200/.217/.222 for the Braves.

    **The Twins received LHP Sean Gilmartin in return for Doumit, a former first round draft pick (2011), who is currently performing well at AA New Britain (3-2, 3.63 ERA 39.2 IP, 12 BB, 37K) and if the Twins raid the AAA roster for pitching prospects Trevor May and Alex Meyer this summer, Gilmartin should be one of the logical selections to move up to AAA, where he pitched for parts of 2012 and 2013 in the Braves Org.

    I would guess that the Twins do not expect Kurt Suzuki to continue avoiding outs in almost 40% of his plate appearances, but ZiPS projects the 30 year old catcher to produce as a MLB regular the rest of the way. Combined with with he’s already done in 2014, he’ll end up with a nice 2014 line. If Suzuki keeps up his current pace into the All-Star break, or even just keeps his line to something like .300/.350/.400, which would represent some fairly significant regression over the next month plus, there will be a handful of teams calling Terry Ryan/Rob Antony looking to acquire the veteran catcher for a post season run. Because the Twins have Josmil Pinto (even with his raw defensive skills), and because they are not in a win-now situation, the Twins could feel relatively comfortable flipping Suzuki.

    In a trade scenario, the Twins would probably hope to fetch an intriguing Minor League player, as well as some MLB outfield depth, maybe a fourth outfielder capabale of playing center field and aleviating some of the Twins’ current outfield issues (especially if Sam Fuldexperiences setbacks returning from the concussion disabled list). Of course, what the Twins ultimately receive for Suzuki will depend on who their trading partner is, and where the Twins think they can add the most value.

    If the Twins look to extend Suzuki, I think that something similar to the Ryan Doumit deal is realistic, but with a slightly higher annual value. I would not be surprised if he received two additional years for $10 million dollars, bringing his total package in Minnesota to three years and just under $13 million. He’s younger than Doumit, and he is a much more complete player, providing value on both sides of the ball.

    If I am the Twins, I would attempt to extend Suzuki. The extension would not keep the Twins from trading Suzuki in a year or two, and if Josmil Pinto cannot live up to the hype from his 2013 call up when he hit .342/.398/.566, then the Twins have some hope of a bridge to the arrival of their next young catcher (who might be 2013 third-rounder Stuart Turner). If the Twins can make the extension team friendly then there is not a lot of risk in a deal like that, but if Suzuki and his agent (MVP Sports Group) are looking for a larger deal coming off of a big 2014, then the Twins should feel comfortable walking away.

    What would you do?

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    Comments 52 Comments
    1. Hosken Bombo Disco's Avatar
      Hosken Bombo Disco -
      What to do with Suzuki? At some point I would extend him a year. This is different than the Doumit situation.

      About an hour after you published this, Suzuki made what I believe was the play of the season-- after hitting a ball over the fence in left field, the ball bounced back into left field, but he continued to run anyway, as if the ball was in play. Even after he knew it was a home run and was rounding third for home plate, he continued to run hard. He even drew the fielders back into the play and they threw the ball home, even though they knew it was a homer too. Suzuki slid into home plate and popped up from his slide laughing about how he just ran hard around the bases on a home run. I think that play showed people something. Hustle, love for playing the game, all that stuff, not to mention a clutch hit in the late innings. At the risk of sounding over serious about it, I think Suzuki is the guy we've been looking for for quite a while. Hitting, catching the veteran pitchers, and giving us that intangible presence we've been searching for since the playoff years.
    1. Larsbars08's Avatar
      Larsbars08 -
      It might be rough for a bit, but if Pinto is the catcher of the future than he needs more reps playing catcher. I'd dangle Suzuki at the trade deadline for something, a prospect and maybe a 4th outfielder. If nobody is willing to give anything, than I'd keep him and then consider giving him an extension. But there's no reason not to wait until after the trade deadline.
    1. tjsyam921's Avatar
      tjsyam921 -
      I'd try to work out an extension like the one year u mentioned or try to pull off a Doumit like trade for a Sean Gilmartin level pitcher before the deadline this year.
    1. troyhobbs's Avatar
      troyhobbs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Larsbars08 View Post
      It might be rough for a bit, but if Pinto is the catcher of the future than he needs more reps playing catcher. I'd dangle Suzuki at the trade deadline for something, a prospect and maybe a 4th outfielder. If nobody is willing to give anything, than I'd keep him and then consider giving him an extension. But there's no reason not to wait until after the trade deadline.
      Agreed. When you have 2 good players at the same position you gotta move one if he can bring in something at a different position of need. Sell high. What are the odds Suzuki keeps this up for another 2-3 yes?
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by troyhobbs View Post
      Agreed. When you have 2 good players at the same position you gotta move one if he can bring in something at a different position of need. Sell high. What are the odds Suzuki keeps this up for another 2-3 yes?
      2-3 months? Pretty low. His BABIP is about 50 points over his (pretty consistent) career average. This gives him a wOBA of about .350. Subtract those 50 points and his slash line is start looking more like .250/.310/.370, which is his norm.
    1. teekz's Avatar
      teekz -
      The problem is that most catchers only start about 100 games. That still leaves about 60 other games you need someone. I'd rather have Suzuki getting those 60 starts than Herrmann or Fryer. I'd wait to see how he is doing mid to late June, but I would be for extending him 1-2 years.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Let it play out. It's May. He very well might be great to bring back for next year, but trying to make that decision now is really unnecessary.

      People were ready to crown Colabello a success and now he's got a nice indent worked into the bench. Just slow down and let things play out. It's two months before any of this has to be decided.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Let it play out. It's May. He very well might be great to bring back for next year, but trying to make that decision now is really unnecessary.
      This.

      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      People were ready to crown Colabello a success and now he's got a nice indent worked into the bench. Just slow down and let things play out. It's two months before any of this has to be decided.
      Because of this.

      I like Suzuki and wouldn't mind retaining him for another year (but only one year) if the Twins stay in contention and he isn't obvious trade bait at the deadline. Lots of time to make a decision, no need to do it now.
    1. Eric R Pleiss's Avatar
      Eric R Pleiss -
      Quote Originally Posted by Hosken Bombo Disco View Post
      Hitting, catching the veteran pitchers, and giving us that intangible presence we've been searching for since the playoff years.
      He's certainly been exciting in 2014. Serious bargain, just hope he doesn't turn into a pumpkin again.
    1. Eric R Pleiss's Avatar
      Eric R Pleiss -
      Quote Originally Posted by Larsbars08 View Post
      If nobody is willing to give anything, than I'd keep him and then consider giving him an extension. But there's no reason not to wait until after the trade deadline.
      Might be tough to pick up a real prospect and a 4th outfielder for 1/3 of a season if they trade him without an extension. And if they extend him, hard to see them trading him the same season, unless that was part of a sign and trade type deal.

      Heck, Suzuki might continue to play hot and then elect free agency over an extension, he hasn't had a cash rich deal yet.
    1. Eric R Pleiss's Avatar
      Eric R Pleiss -
      Quote Originally Posted by tjsyam921 View Post
      I'd try to work out an extension like the one year u mentioned or try to pull off a Doumit like trade for a Sean Gilmartin level pitcher before the deadline this year.
      The Doumit deal was with an entire year left on the deal. Suzuki, without an extension would be a 1/3 of the year, maybe 1/2 a year rental. Not sure that someone with a Gilmartin pedigree would be on the table. But we can certainly hope!
    1. Eric R Pleiss's Avatar
      Eric R Pleiss -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      2-3 months? Pretty low. His BABIP is about 50 points over his (pretty consistent) career average. This gives him a wOBA of about .350. Subtract those 50 points and his slash line is start looking more like .250/.310/.370, which is his norm.
      Ding-ding-ding!

      Still a valuable piece as a part time catcher and clubhouse guy. Which I think makes a team friendly extension ideal. But if he continues to hit, I think he would be tough to extend without laying out a larger chunk of cash.
    1. Eric R Pleiss's Avatar
      Eric R Pleiss -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Just slow down and let things play out. It's two months before any of this has to be decided.
      But this is much more fun!
    1. Eric R Pleiss's Avatar
      Eric R Pleiss -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      ...if the Twins stay in contention...
      That's a pretty huge "if," Brock. .500 ball team makes August and September more interesting, but hard to see this team in position for even the second Wild Card spot.

      I continue to enjoy the ride the Twins are on, and I believe they have a chance to win every game, but I think they're more likely to win 70 than 81, or 85+ it would take to be close to Wild Card spots.
    1. kdrupp09's Avatar
      kdrupp09 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Eric R Pleiss View Post
      Ding-ding-ding!

      Still a valuable piece as a part time catcher and clubhouse guy. Which I think makes a team friendly extension ideal. But if he continues to hit, I think he would be tough to extend without laying out a larger chunk of cash.
      Yeah and if he continues to hit then his potential trade value goes up, so really this is almost a win-win for the Twins. If he regresses they can resign him as a back-up/clubhouse guy, if he continues to rake, you trade him for max value. Thus win-win.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Eric R Pleiss View Post
      That's a pretty huge "if," Brock. .500 ball team makes August and September more interesting, but hard to see this team in position for even the second Wild Card spot.

      I continue to enjoy the ride the Twins are on, and I believe they have a chance to win every game, but I think they're more likely to win 70 than 81, or 85+ it would take to be close to Wild Card spots.
      Absolutely. I don't expect the Twins to stay in "contention" but I think they have a decent shot at hanging around .500 through July, which means they probably won't be selling at the deadline.
    1. kdrupp09's Avatar
      kdrupp09 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Absolutely. I don't expect the Twins to stay in "contention" but I think they have a decent shot at hanging around .500 through July, which means they probably won't be selling at the deadline.
      The Rubber Band lives!
    1. Hosken Bombo Disco's Avatar
      Hosken Bombo Disco -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Let it play out. It's May. He very well might be great to bring back for next year, but trying to make that decision now is really unnecessary.

      People were ready to crown Colabello a success and now he's got a nice indent worked into the bench. Just slow down and let things play out. It's two months before any of this has to be decided.
      Absolutely let it play out but 1) Suzuki has 7 MLB seasons behind him, Colabello not so much, and 2) who would be our second catcher if we moved Suzuki.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      Signing him to an extension now would be buying high. Nothing in his career says he will keep this up and no GM is going to think he is suddenly a .310 hitter and give us commensurate value. If they do then jump at it but they won't. He will regress to his norm but still a good share time guy. I heard he blamed Oakland for his poor average because they told him he had to go to right field on every pitch no matter what.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Try to extend him for 2015 for 2.5 mil or so. Even if he reverts to his career norm he is a nice piece to have on the team as a part time catcher.

      If Pinto can be the every day guy and someone from the minors steps up as a capable back up, then you can always trade him.
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