Kurt Suzuki made his first All-Star team last season and really turned some heads, slashing .288/.345/.383, all well above his career averages.
His impressive season led to the Minnesota Twins rewarding the veteran catcher with a two-year, $12-million extension that included a vesting option for the 2017 season. The extension started to look foolish for most of the 2015 season as Suzuki not only failed to reproduce his All-Star-caliber numbers from the season before, but saw his numbers dip well below his career averages. Because backup catching options Chris Herrmann and Eric Fryer are both hitting below the Mendoza line on the season, Minnesota has been forced to sticking with Suzuki, who is slowly beginning to turn his season around.
The 31-year-old Hawaiian is finally starting to hit again. Suzuki has hit in four consecutive games, including back-to-back multi-hit performances. He has collected five runs batted in over the recent stretch. He has a .280 average and a .327 on-base percentage in the month of August. The nine-year Major League veteran has also driven in eight runs in his 13 starts this month.
Minnesota has slowly slid out of playoff contention after having the second-best American League record heading into the All-Star break, but the team’s decision to not upgrade at catcher when the trade deadline came around has seemed to backfire. There were whispers that general manager Terry Ryan might look to acquire a catcher to take at-bats away from the slumping Suzuki while also dropping guys like Herrmann and Fryer off the roster. While it still hurts the Twins to not have a backup they can trust once or twice a week, Suzuki has quietly become the player once again that Minnesota was treated to in 2014.
Even through his struggles, Suzuki has still held his own when compared to other starting catchers. He is sixth among American League catchers in runs batted in and has the fourth-best fielding percentage for catchers league-wide.
The Twins do need to find some way to get a second catcher on their roster who isn’t going to hit like a pitcher, but Suzuki is doing enough to give Ryan confidence that he can still be a productive starting backstop. Ryan’s time this offseason would be better served filling the multiple holes that Minnesota has in their bullpen as well as addressing a questionable situation at shortstop.
Suzuki returning to form is a great thing for the Twins, who as a franchise have much brighter days ahead when compared to the past four seasons. The $6 million he is owed next year still looks like it can be money well spent as Minnesota will surely be contending for a playoff spot once again.