MINNEAPOLIS — Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki’s name was mentioned amid the trade rumors as Thursday’s trade deadline approached. Instead of dealing the All-Star catcher, Minnesota locked him up for at least two more years.
The Twins announced shortly after Thursday’s 3 p.m. CT trade deadline that they signed Suzuki to a two-year, $12 million contract extension, with a vesting option for the 2017 season. Minnesota originally inked Suzuki to a one-year, $2.75 million deal before the 2013 season as a replacement for Joe Mauer, who transitioned from catcher to first base.
In his first year with the Twins, Suzuki has put up impressive offensive numbers. The 30-year-old Suzuki batted .304 with 41 RBI in his first 89 games with Minnesota, and earned a trip to his first All-Star Game. His OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .753 this year is easily the highest of his eight-year career.
"Obviously he’s had a very good offensive year, much better than his past few years," Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony told FOXSportsNorth.com. "I think the biggest thing about Kurt is that he is in a position where he’s a leader back there. The pitchers have a lot of confidence in him. . . . He just has a really good rapport with our pitchers and has done a very good job on the defensive side of things."
When Minnesota originally signed Suzuki, he came with a reputation as a defensive specialist. Twins pitchers and coaches have raved throughout the season about Suzuki’s ability to control a pitching staff, his durability, and his leadership in the clubhouse.
He’ll also be reunited with a former Oakland teammate in pitcher Tommy Milone, who earlier Thursday was acquired by the Twins for outfielder Sam Fuld. Suzuki and Milone played together with the A’s in 2012 and 2013.
The Suzuki contract extension is an indication that the Twins don’t believe 25-year-old Josmil Pinto is ready to handle the everyday catching duties. While Pinto has shown he can hit at the major-league level, his defense behind the plate remains a work in progress. Pinto has 64 big-league games under his belt, but he’s spent the majority of 2014 at Triple-A Rochester.
"I don’t think we look at Pinto any differently than we did coming out of spring training, in that we think he could be a good tandem with Suzuki," Antony said. "Right now he’s right where he should be in Rochester, where he’s working on his defensive game. . . . In the future, we believe Pinto’s going to improve his defense, and the hitting’s going to continue to progress. All of a sudden you have a good offensive catcher who’s improving his defense, along with a well-rounded veteran."