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 Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.
The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.
For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.
The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.
St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.
The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.
Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?
Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.