Nationals acquire catcher Kurt Suzuki from A’s

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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.

Jim Hickey steps down as Cubs’ pitching coach

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The Cubs announced on Tuesday that Jim Hickey has stepped down as the pitching coach due to personal reasons. The club will begin a search for a replacement.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said in a statement, “Jim Hickey notified us yesterday of his decision to step down as pitching coach and leave the organization for personal reasons. We thank Jim for his season with the Cubs and his positive impact on our pitchers. Jim has our full support and we all wish him well.”

Hickey, 57, spent over a decade as a coach in the Rays organization before joining the Cubs for the past season, reuniting with Joe Maddon. The Cubs’ starting staff ranked 10th among all 30 teams with a 3.84 ERA and the bullpen posted an NL-best 3.35 ERA.