Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Contemplating Kurt Suzuki

Kurt Suzuki has yet
to be charged with a
passed ball this year,
but there have been
20 wild pitches in his
480-plus innings caught.
In 2014, Kurt Suzuki hit the All-Star break with a slash line of .309/.365/.396. He was named to the All-Star team; more important, it got him a contract extension a couple weeks later.

Today, Suzuki has a slash line of .294/.332/.447. Yes, his OPS at the break this year is actually higher than his OPS at the break in his career year 2014. Maybe it's the ax-handle bat, maybe it's the reduced playing time, maybe there's no real reason -- but he has hit.

His season has been a model of inconsistency. Through May, he was slashing .212/.266/.293, which is release-bait production. June and so far in July, he's slashing .378/.402/.602, which is MVP-caliber production.

Obviously, Suzuki didn't get an All-Star bid this year. But his resurgence, and the Twins' continued organizational issues with catchers, poses something of a dilemma for the decision makers.

Suzuki is 32, turns 33 in October. He has a vesting option for 2017 that kicks in if he reaches 485 plate appearances, and he is nowhere near being on track to get that much playing time. So he's destined for free agency after the season. John Ryan Murphy, theoretically heir to the catching job, not only hasn't shoved the veteran aside this year as expected, he's hitting .204 in Rochester.

I don't know what the trade market is like for Suzuki this month. There may be a contender that sees him as a significant upgrade over their current catcher and is willing to pay for him. I am confident that the Twins regard him as better than their current catching choices not only for 2016 but 2017.

Keep him or trade him? Obviously the answer depends on the return. There are veterans on this roster the Twins can justifiably move at a discount because doing so will open time for younger players. Suzuki is not one of them. Yet betting on a 33-year-old catcher to continue to hit at a career-high level is unwise.

Suzuki may prove a yardstick of sorts to how intently Terry Ryan and Co. intend to reshape this roster by the trading deadline.

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