The Washington Nationals continued their aggressive start to the offseason Monday, addressing their glaring need for a proven catcher by agreeing to a two-year deal with 35-year-old Kurt Suzuki, according to a person familiar with the situation. The deal, pending a physical, is worth $10 million and will pay Suzuki $4 million in 2019 and $6 million in 2020, and it would bring Suzuki back to the team for which he played in 2012 and 2013.
Suzuki is a beloved clubhouse presence, well respected for his ability to frame pitches and handle a pitching staff — and recently respected in Washington for the tremendous damage he inflicted on the Nationals as a member of the Atlanta Braves.
The veteran hit .271 with 12 homers in 105 games with Atlanta in 2018, but at his age, he likely cannot be relied upon as a full-time starter. Still, he is a proven option who gives the Nationals depth and reduces their desperation as they seek to add a “front-line” type. If they want to find a platoon player to complement Suzuki, they can now find that player and all but assure themselves of increased offensive production after a year of minimal catching contributions. If they still seek an all-star starter, particularly on the trade market, they will no longer be doing so from a position of weakness — which can only help their cause.
The move is the latest in a series of quick hits orchestrated by General Manager Mike Rizzo, who is undaunted by the pending status of Bryce Harper — and unwilling to submit to what might once again be a slow-moving offseason. He traded for reliever Kyle Barraclough within days of the end of the regular season. He jumped on reliever Trevor Rosenthal within days of free agency’s beginning. Now he is striking first on the catchers market, a market the Nationals likely will continue to monitor moving forward.
Washington still has several needs to address. The team needs starting pitching. It needs a left-handed first baseman to spell Ryan Zimmerman. The Nationals could use a proven utility man, a Marwin Gonzalez type. They can never have enough bullpen help, something Rizzo has said many times.
But more than any team in the majors, the Nationals are on the move, addressing their needs regardless of the machinations of a sluggish early market. And by acquiring Suzuki, they are addressing a need while adding a stabilizing influence to their clubhouse and a recently potent offensive player. Suzuki compiled an .825 OPS with the Braves over the past two years — against the same divisional competition he will face with the Nationals over the next two.