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Report: Braves extend Kurt Suzuki

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Kurt Suzuki will wear a Braves’ uniform through the 2018 season after signing a one-year, $3.5 million extension with the club on Saturday, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal adds that the two had been in talks for weeks and Suzuki made it clear that he wanted to remain in Atlanta for the foreseeable future. The team has yet to announce the extension.

Suzuki, 33, initially signed a one-year contract with the Braves back in January. The veteran backstop stepped into a backup role behind starting catcher Tyler Flowers, but still found a way to impress at the plate with a .271/.343/.525 batting line, career-best 18 home runs and an .868 OPS through 287 PA. According to FanGraphs, Suzuki’s 2.2 fWAR makes 2017 his most valuable season since his run with the 2009 Athletics.

It’s a prudent move for the Braves, who would have lost one of their most dynamic second-half hitters to the free agent market this offseason. Entering Saturday, Suzuki is second only to Freddie Freeman with 11 homers and 1.4 fWAR since the All-Star break. His stunning comeback also confirmed the team’s decision to look outside the organization for a backup catcher, rather than turning to fellow veteran Anthony Recker behind the plate.

“On a personal level, this season exceeded my expectations,” Suzuki told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s just one of those things I can’t explain. I put a lot of work in and really didn’t have a job until late January. I got an opportunity here and took advantage of it. It was definitely a good fit.”

Athletics designate Fernando Rodney

Fernando Rodney
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Veteran reliever Fernando Rodney has been designated for assignment, the Athletics announced Saturday. In a corresponding move, the club selected the contract of lefty reliever Wei-Chung Wang from Triple-A Las Vegas.

Rodney, 42, struggled to find his footing at the start of his second season with the A’s. He appeared in 17 games this spring, but harbored an unsightly 9.42 ERA during the span of just 14 1/3 innings, flanked by an equally disheartening 7.5 BB/9 against his 8.8 SO/9. While the right-hander isn’t far removed from his last productive campaign in the majors — as evidenced by the cumulative 3.36 ERA and 25 saves he delivered for the Twins and A’s in 2018 — the club evidently felt ready to take things in a different direction this season.

It’s still unclear whether this will mark the end of Rodney’s time in Major League Baseball; if so, he’ll finish a 17-year track in the majors with three All-Star designations, 908 career strikeouts, and 325 career saves (best among all active pitchers and 18th-best overall).

Without Rodney, the Athletics will look to former Brewers reliever Wang to bolster a bullpen that currently ranks fifth-best in the American League. The 27-year-old lefty hasn’t stepped on a major-league mound since 2017, but recently impressed in Triple-A after inking a minors contract with the team in February. He holds a 3.75 ERA, 2.3 BB/9, and 8.3 SO/9 through his first 24 innings with the organization.