On Friday, the A’s traded away starting catcher Kurt Suzuki along with cash considerations to the Washington Nationals for Single A catcher David Freitas. Suzuki was the A’s longest tenured player, a title which now falls onto the injured shoulders of Dallas Braden.
The deal came as a surprise to players and fans alike. Although Suzuki has struggled with the bat, his average declined each year he has played to the current .218 its at now, he has been the only constant in a pitching staff that turns over each and every year. Defensively, Suzuki is one of the best in the game. This season, Suzuki leads all American League catchers in fielding percentage (.996) and caught-stealing percentage (38.3%).
Before today’s game Melvin praised Suzuki for his skills behind the plate, specifically for his work handling the young pitchers on this A’s staff. “You look at the way all our young pitchers have done this year[...]I think its just as much Kurt as anyone else and the faith they have in Kurt preparing the game plan he has for them and making them feel comfortable when they go out to the mound.”
Many of the A’s starters have taken to Twitter today to publicly say farewell to their catcher and confirming Melvin’s thoughts on the impact he has made to this rotation.
Sad day to have to see @kurtsuzuki go. Has taught me way more then I think he might realize. Wish him nothing but the best with the Nats.
— Tommy Milone (@TommyMilone_57) August 3, 2012
Sad to see @kurtsuzuki go. Just a fantastic catcher and even better person. Can’t thank him enough for all he did for me.
— Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) August 3, 2012
Rough day losing @kurtsuzuki one of the best guys I ever played with & met in this game I’ve learned so much from him he will be missed.
— Jarrod Parker (@JarrodBParker) August 3, 2012
Goodluck to @kurtsuzuki. Truly one of the hardest working players I’ve ever known. Your presence will be missed in Oakland.
— Jerry Blevins (@JerryBlevins_13) August 3, 2012
The question still remains however: is this a vote of no confidence from A’s management on the ability for this team to succeed right now?
On first glance this looks like a money saving move. Suzuki was set to make almost 6.5 million dollars next year and has a vesting option of 8.5 million for 2014. That’s a lot of money for a guy batting .218, no matter what he brings behind the plate. This is especially true for a team like the A’s who, including Suzuki, have only four guys making above 5 million a year.
This deal really is all about Derek Norris. We already knew the A’s believed he was their catcher of the future and now it is clear that future is now. Even before the trade, Norris was getting significantly more playing time than Suzuki. From the time Norris made his first start on June 21st to the time he was sent down, Suzuki caught only 13 games compared to Norris’ 20.
“We feel like it is Derek Norris’ time.” Melvin said, “We have a lot of confidence in him otherwise we wouldn’t have made this move with [Suzuki].”
Suzuki started 629 games at catcher for the Oakland Athletics, second all time for the A’s behind only Terry Steinbach’s 1050 games. He was always great to the Oakland community and beloved in the clubhouse. He will be missed and I think I can speak for all A’s fans when I say good luck.
“I’ve been close to players before, I’ve been close to catchers…this guy is an all timer for me.” –Bob Melvin
Neshek Joins the Bullpen
-In other news the A’s also acquired Pat Neshek from the Baltimore Orioles for cash. Neshek had great years for the Twins in ’06 and ’07, posting an ERA under 3.00 in both seasons. But after only 15 games in ’08 he was injured and underwent Tommy John surgery, missing all of the ’09 season. He has struggled to rebound since then but put up good numbers this year with a 2.66 ERA for Triple-A Norfolk. Melvin said he will be a righty match up guy, likely pitching in the sixth and seventh innings.
Derek Norris and Michael Taylor Rejoin Team
-Derek Norris and Michael Taylor were recalled from Sacramento. To make room for the three new players, the A’s placed Seth Smith on the DL and sent down Jim Miller and Evan Scribner.