By acquiring George Kottaras from the Brewers last week the A’s signaled that Kurt Suzuki would lose playing time behind the plate, but today they took that several steps further by trading Suzuki to the Nationals.
In return the A’s receive Single-A catching prospect David Freitas, who was a 15th-round pick in 2010 and has shown very good on-base skills in the minors.
Suzuki has been the A’s starting catcher for five-and-a-half seasons, is still just 28 years old, and has a strong defensive reputation, but he’s collapsed offensively since a nice year at the plate in 2009. Since then he’s hit just .235 with a .647 OPS in 340 games, including .218 with a .536 OPS this season.
Washington has been in the market for catching help since losing Wilson Ramos to a knee injury that required two surgeries, but Ramos said just yesterday that he expects to be fully recovered in time for spring training and Suzuki is signed for next season at $6.45 million with an $8.5 million option or $650,000 buyout for 2014.
Suzuki will bump Jesus Flores from the starting job down the stretch, but it’ll be interesting to see how the Nationals deal with having Ramos, Suzuki, and Flores heading into 2013. Oakland has Kottaras and Derek Norris ready to take over for Suzuki and did well to get a decent catching prospect while unloading Suzuki’s contract.
Yankees’ special advisor and former outfielder Hideki Matsui expects to help the club “convince or recruit” Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani, according to a report from MLB.com’s Deesha Thosar. The Yankees are currently viewed as the favorites to sign Otani, though there still figures to be plenty of competition for his services when he finally becomes eligible to enter Major League Baseball.
Matsui also told Thosar that while he hasn’t seen a player find success as a hybrid pitcher/slugger in the majors, he’s taken notice of Otani’s success in both areas. “He’s done well in Japan, so as a baseball fan I’m looking forward to how he’s going to do here in the Majors and in the U.S.,” Matsui said, later adding, “If [pitching and hitting is] something he wants to do, and the team wants it, then why not?”
Neither the Yankees nor any other suitor should be too concerned with Otani’s ability to translate his .332 batting average and 3.20 ERA to MLB — at least, not just yet. There are still a few roadblocks in his path to the major leagues, most notably the lack of approval from the Players Association. Per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, the union doesn’t want to sign off on an agreement that would give the Nippon Ham Fighters a $20 million posting fee in exchange for Otani’s services. According to the posting system rules, Otani himself would be eligible to receive no more than a $4 million signing bonus.
The good news in all of this? The union agreed to reach a final decision by Monday, November 21, so there’s still a chance Major League Baseball will see the talented two-way player bring his unique skillset to the field in 2018.