Kurt Suzuki waited until late January to find a new home the last time he tested the free agent market, before finally agreeing on a 1-year/$1.5M deal with the Atlanta Braves on January 30, 2017.
He signed an extension with the Braves after a solid 2017 campaign, and earned $3.5M in 2018.
This time around, the market for the veteran catcher moved much more quickly.
Suzuki, 35, signed a 2-year/$10M deal with the Washington Nationals he played for in 2012-13, reuniting with Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo, who apparently made it clear from the start that he was interested in a reunion with the 12-year veteran.
“Speaking to my agent and speaking to [Rizzo],” Suzuki said in a conference call with reporters this afternoon, “he was really aggressive from the beginning of free agency.
“And I kind of took to that. And he told my agent from Day 1 that I’m their guy. Whether I’m a guy that catches 120 games or 90 games or whatever they want me to do you know, I just told them I’ll be ready to do whatever you want and he said I’m going to play, obviously, but I just said whatever you need me to do.
“So whether that’s 80-90-100-120, it really doesn’t matter to me, so I’m just trying to help the team win and see how it goes.”
Suzuki has averaged 93 games played in the last two seasons with the Braves, so there is some speculation that the Nationals might not be done adding to their catching corps.
With the addition of Suzuki, the Nationals have four catchers on the 40-Man roster, with Pedro Severino, who struggled last season in an extended look in the majors, Spencer Kieboom, who impressed and stuck as Matt Wieters’ backup in 2018, and Raudy Read, whose 80-game PED suspension set back his development.
Suzuki said today he wasn’t concerned that the potential addition of another catcher might limit the amount of starts he gets.
“I think in this point of my career, my ego, I’ve got no ego, I’ve never had an ego, it was just to the point where [Rizzo] said I’m the guy,” Suzuki explained.
“Whether it’s I’m a guy that’s going to catch 50 games, or I’m a 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 it.”
“At this stage of my career,” he continued, “I haven’t gotten by the first round of the playoffs.
“I haven’t played in the World Series before. That’s my goal. That’s the ultimate goal of every player, is to win a World Series, and I believe that with the team that we have here in Washington, we have a very good chance of it, and that was really appealing and excited me, and like I said, whatever he asks me to do I’m going to do.”
Suzuki will earn $4M in 2019, and he’s set to make $6M in 2020, with performance bonuses that Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported on Twitter include $25,000 if he wins a Gold Glove or an NLCS MVP, and $50,000 for an All-Star selection, Comeback Player of the Year award, MVP, Silver Slugger, or World Series MVP.
How important was the second year the Nationals offered?
“Obviously I’m not going to say the second year wasn’t important,” Suzuki acknowledged.
“Any time a team offers to invest in you for two years, they really want you.
“I think it was just the fact of how persistent Rizzo and his team were coming after me. They spoke at length a lot with my agent, and it just seemed like they were willing to do whatever it took to get me in a Nats uniform again.
“Rizzo knows me as a player, he knows me as a person. I’ve played for Rizzo before and I guess he felt like I was a good fit for that clubhouse and that really appealed to me as a player.
“You want to feel wanted and appreciated. I’m not saying Atlanta didn’t, but I’m saying when Rizzo came up, and he just made it clear that I’m the guy, and I’m the guy that they want here, and everything went well, and just super-excited to join the Nationals and compete for a World Series.”