The Nationals traded catcher Kurt Suzuki back to the Oakland A’s last night, cutting ties with a key contributor to their 2012 run to the National League East title and opening the door for Jhonatan Solano to serve as Wilson Ramos’s backup.
“Thank [you] Nats fans for the love and support!” Suzuki wrote early this morning on his Twitter account. “I enjoyed every minute. First class [organization]. It’s a business and now it’s time to go get that ring. … Hello Oakland! Pumped to be back and ready to go make a run at this. Let’s do this!”
In return for Suzuki in the waiver deal, which the teams announced late Friday morning, the Nationals received 22-year-old pitching prospect Dakota Bacus. Bacus, a 6-foot-2 right-hander picked in the ninth round of the 2012 draft, has gone 9-5 with a 3.56 ERA this season for Class A Beloit in the Midwest League. Bacus will report to Class A Hagerstown.
The Nationals acquired Suzuki last season on Aug. 3 for catching prospect David Freitas, who this season, at 24, has a .696 OPS this season between Class AA and AAA. The A’s agreed then to pay roughly half of Suzuki’s remaining salary, which was $6.45 million this season.
Suzuki owns a $9.25 million team option in his contract for 2014, which will of course not be picked up. It would have vested automatically if he reached 113 starts, but that will not happen. The Nationals would have had to buy Suzuki out for $650,000, so they saved some money on the trade.
Suzuki became the Nationals’ starting catcher for the final two months of last year, hitting .267/.321/.404 in 43 games. He was a major cog as the Nationals sealed their first division title, batting .301 in September.
Suzuki became expendable late this season as Ramos has finally remained healthy coming off knee surgery. General Manager Mike Rizzo acquired Suzuki last August in part to provide insurance for Ramos as he recovered from torn ligaments in his right knee, and Suzuki became the Nationals’ starter this year as Ramos twice landed on the disabled list.
Since Ramos returned from his second DL stint, though, Suzuki has become expendable. He has hit only .222/.283/.310 over 79 games. Since Ramos returned July 4, Suzuki has started only 12 of 42 games. As the Nationals have fallen out of contention and Ramos has stayed healthy, they no longer viewed Suzuki as a necessary part of the roster.
They saw Solano, who has received several spurts of major league service, as a viable backup. Solano has hit .214/.245/.279 in 40 games at Class AAA Syracuse. Manager Davey Johnson has started talking about using the season’s final month to evaluate talent for next year, and the Nationals will have a chance to gauge Solano’s ability as a potential backup next season.
The A’s, who are 2 ½ games behind the Rangers in the American League West, welcomed back Suzuki, a hard-working and energetic player who was popular in both Oakland’s clubhouse and Washington’s.
The Nationals could be busy with another deal today. They have until this afternoon to work out a trade with Tampa Bay for outfielder David DeJesus. The Nationals acquired DeJesus from the Cubs on Monday and put him on revocable waivers immediately. The Rays claimed him, and if the teams reach a deal DeJesus would join Tampa Bay and the Rays would take on his remaining salary.
Starting pitcher Dan Haren, who has been outstanding in the second half, is another candidate to be scooped up by a contender in a waiver deal.