Acquired from the Oakland A’s in an August 3, 2012 trade for minor league catcher David Freitas, Kurt Suzuki put up a .267/.321/.404 line, five doubles, and five home runs over 43 games and 164 plate appearances down the stretch for the Washington Nationals on the way to the first postseason trip by a D.C.-based team since 1933.
Suzuki posted a .222/.283/.310 line, 11 doubles, and three home runs in 79 games and 281 PAs in 2013 before he was dealt back to the Athletics, and he went on to sign a free agent deal with the Minnesota Twins, for whom he played between 2014-16, and Atlanta’s Braves (2017-18) before returning to the nation’s capital on a 2-year/$10M free agent deal earlier this week.
In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, the now-35-year-old catcher, who went to the NLDS with the Braves this past season, talked about getting to the postseason for the first time with the Nationals in 2012, and wanting to get back there again.
“2012 was obviously a special year,” Suzuki said. “First time making the playoffs and that was a very talented team and obviously things didn’t go how we had planned. I think the team that we have is not much different talent-wise. I know a few of the guys that I played with in 2012 are still there. [Stephen Strasburg], [Anthony] Rendon, [Ryan Zimmerman], those guys are still there. It’s a very talented group.”
Suzuki saw the Nationals’ talent up close in the last two seasons, playing against them with the Braves.
“Over on the other side the last couple years they were always a feared team,” he said.
“And you know you just see the talent that they have with the guys that they acquire, with the talent that comes up through the minor leagues, obviously their starting rotation, their bullpen, they’ve got everything it takes to win a World Series, and it’s just a matter of going out there and playing on the field.
“I’ve always said it: Everything looks good on paper. Everything is optimistic on paper. But you’ve got to go between the lines and perform and whatever team does that is going to win.
“But that being said, I love our chances for this year. I think we’ve got all the talent and all the tools to go out there and win and we’ve just got to go out there and play.”
Getting another shot at the postseason, Suzuki said, was an important consideration in his decision to sign on with the Nationals.
“They’re a team that plays for the World Series every single year. They compete for a World Series, that’s their goal. And when they come and they show that they’re interested and they value you as a player, and as a person, I think that kind of shows your value right there, and as a player you really appreciate that. Like I told [GM Mike] Rizzo today, I appreciate him believing in me, and investing in me, and I’m going to go out there and do my best to help the team win.”
He did receive an offer from the Braves, but the deal didn’t feel right, Suzuki said, so he decided to test the free agent market for the third time.
“Without getting into too much specifics, they did offer me a deal,” he explained. “For me it just wasn’t right. It just didn’t make sense for my family and I to go that route.
“We felt it was best to go out into free agency. It didn’t mean that I didn’t want to go back, it just didn’t make sense. I wanted to see what my value was on the open market, and obviously getting what I got from a team that, like I said, contends for the World Series every single year, I guess it was a good gamble to take.”
Suzuki signed with the Twins relatively early (in December 2013) the first time he was a free agent, but he had to wait until late January 2017 before inking a one-year contract with the Braves.
This time out found a deal he liked early in the process.
“Obviously the last time I went through free agency it wasn’t as fun,” Suzuki admitted.
“It was a little nerve-wracking. But this year it’s a little different and I’m excited for it and I’m looking forward to the season and getting going.”
He also said he was excited to get to work with the pitchers he’s going to catch this season.
“It’s a good rotation,” Suzuki told reporters.
“I think it’s one of the best rotations in baseball. I mean, nobody’s really talking about Joe Ross coming back from surgery either, he’s got a great arm, and he’s showed what he’s capable of when healthy.
“Just having the three horses with Tanner [Roark], Stras, and Max [Scherzer], having those three anchor your staff, I think any team would love that. I think that you throw in some complementary pieces, maybe some younger arms, I don’t know what Rizzo is going to do, but you have those three guys stable at the top of your rotation that you know are going to go out there every fifth day and give you a heck of a chance to win, I mean that’s all you can ask for, and as a catcher that’s great, because it makes your job that much more fun, when you can go out there on a daily basis knowing you have a chance to do something special with the pitcher on the mound, and that’s exciting, man, that’s really exciting.”