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Angels reach agreement with veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki on a one-year contract

Washington Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki rounds third Sept. 24, 2020, against the Mets.
Catcher Kurt Suzuki
(Nick Wass / Associated Press)

The Angels have found a veteran to shore up their catching cohort. They announced Friday an agreement to bring on 14-year veteran Kurt Suzuki on a one-year, $1.5-million deal.

Suzuki, a native of Hawaii and product of Cal State Fullerton, doesn’t rank among the sport’s best defensive catchers, according to advanced statistics. But he supplies above-average offense at his position. He produced an .812 OPS over the last four seasons. Despite a reduction in power in 2020, Suzuki assembled a respectable 99 OPS-plus.

Suzuki, 37, will share time behind the plate with Max Stassi. First-year Angels general manager Perry Minasian estimated Suzuki, who hasn’t caught more than 750 innings since 2016, will catch two to three times a week. Stassi, who has recovered well from from October hip surgery, will be counted on take on the brunt of the work. He has shown himself to be a more capable pitch framer than Suzuki over the last three seasons.

Still, Suzuki is an established and well-respected catcher who could pair easily with Stassi.

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President Trump honored the World Series champion Nationals at the White House on Monday, though more than a half-dozen players skipped the visit.

“Part of bringing in a guy like Kurt Suzuki [is] it’s such a demanding position, not only physically but mentally,” Minasian said. “You’re trusting the person behind the plate to make 150 to 175, 200 decisions a night. They have a huge impact on whether you win or lose the game. So to have two guys like Max Stassi and Kurt Suzuki, we feel really good about that.”

Suzuki comes to the Angels after two years playing for the Washington Nationals, with whom he won the World Series in 2019. He spent two seasons before that championship playing in Atlanta, where he crossed paths with Minasian.

Suzuki originally was a member of the Oakland Athletics, who selected him in the second round of the 2004 draft. Since debuting in 2007, he has batted .259 with a .708 OPS over 1,512 games.

Suzuki’s new contract is minuscule compared with the two-year, $10-million deal he signed with the Nationals prior to the 2019 season. Minasian said Suzuki spurned better offers to come to Anaheim.

Angels starters Andrew Heaney and Dylan Bundy avoided arbitration by agreeing to one-year deals, but Shohei Ohtani has not come to terms.

Suzuki’s low cost should help the Angels find a way to address their biggest need — starting pitching — before spring training.

Since taking over the team’s baseball operations in mid-November, Minasian has ticked off three of four major items on the Angels’ winter to-do list with shrewd moves. Suzuki, relievers Raisel Iglesias and Alex Claudio, and shortstop José Iglesias will make up roughly $15 million of the Angels’ projected budget. Factoring in prior commitments and the projected arbitration salaries of six players, the Angels’ luxury tax payroll is estimated at roughly $180 million. That figure would leave Minasian $14 million in wiggle room to reach the Angels’ preseason 2020 spending levels and $30 million to hit the luxury tax threshold.

“The ownership group we have with Arte and Carole [Moreno], they’re dedicated to putting a winning team on the field,” Minasian said. “Pitching is still obviously a priority and I know I’ve said that a couple times. Starting pitching is a priority specifically. We’ll see where that goes.”


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