A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki was a hot property two years ago. Young, productive and able to withstand an exceptionally heavy workload behind the plate, his name came up in plenty of rumors, even though there was nothing to suggest the A’s wanted to deal him.
And they didn’t, a fact they now surely regret. On Thursday, they called up youngster Derek Norris to split time with their struggling veteran.
Suzuki went from knocking in 88 runs in 2009 to 71 in 2010 and 44 last year. He still posted a solid enough .686 OPS last season, but this year, he’s all of the way down to .524. He’s hitting .215 with no homers and 16 RBI in 209 at-bats.
Maybe that’s an aberration, but it’s clear now that Suzuki, even though he’s still just 28, is no longer a building block for the A’s. Instead, he’s likely going on the trading block.
Finding a taker could be difficult. Suzuki is making $5 million this year and $6.45 million in 2014. Worse, he has an option for 2014 that vests at $9.25 million as long as he makes 113 starts.
Also, and this is unusual, there aren’t really any contenders looking for catching at the moment. The Nationals could use a stopgap to help out with Wilson Ramos out for the season, but they’re not going to take on Suzuki’s 2013 salary. The Pirates are searching for offense, but Suzuki probably isn’t enough of an upgrade over Rod Barajas to make his salary palatable.
So, the A’s are probably stuck with Suzuki for now, at least unless some more starting catchers get hurt.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.