Kurt Suzuki was arguably the Minnesota Twins’ best asset as Thursday’s trade deadline approached, particularly after a report that talks of a contract extension had not gotten far. But as trade suitors seemed to fall by the wayside, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported on Thursday morning that the team had “reengaged” Suzuki about a contract extension. Things came together quickly after that initial news surfaced, and the Twins confirmed they had agreed to a two-year, $12 million contract extension with Suzuki on Thursday afternoon. The deal also includes a vesting option for 2017 based on Suzuki’s 2016 plate appearances.
Suzuki signed a one-year, $2.75 million deal with the Twins last December, and he’s having a career year at the plate with a slash-line of .304/.367/.386, 41 RBI and 19 doubles over 347 plate appearances entering Thursday’s action. His value on the free agent market was clearly on the rise, and the average annual salary in his new deal is still $1 million less than Jarrod Saltalamacchia got from the Miami Marlins last winter. While $6 million per year for Suzuki is clearly not a discount, particularly since he will surely regress offensively at some point, the going rate for free agent catchers may only get more expensive down the road.
The decision to re-sign Suzuki is a strong indicator that the Twins are unsure of Josmil Pinto’s future behind the plate. Pinto showed great promise offensively in his first taste of big league action last September, hitting .342/.398/.566 with four home runs and 12 RBI, and it was thought his bat would keep him in the big leagues while he worked on becoming a more polished defensive catcher. But that did not come to fruition this year, as Pinto struggles throwing out runners (0-for-16) carried over to his offense (.222, seven home runs and 16 RBI) before he was demoted to Triple-A in June.
The Twins now have time to find a definite plan for the future at catcher, be it continuing to work with Pinto or waiting for someone in the lower minors to be ready to contribute at the big league level. Suzuki’s reliability and durability will make sure no one has to be rushed through the system, and that will be his greatest impact during the duration of his new contract. Fans will need to maintain reasonable expectations, as in not expecting him to hit .300 again, but I think Suzuki will provide a nice return on the investment the Twins made in him today.