Braves sign Kurt Suzuki to one-year deal in first step in solidifying catching for 2018

Kurt Suzuki hit .271/.343/.525 with a career-high 18 home runs in just 255 at-bats over 76 games in his 11th MLB season.
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The Braves have taken the first step — and the only difficult one — in solidifying their catching position for 2018, announcing Saturday that have signed Kurt Suzuki to a one-year contract.

The team did not disclose financial terms, but per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the deal with the 33-year-old is for $3.5 million.

With Suzuki — who hit .271/.343/.525 with a career-high 18 home runs in just 255 at-bats over 76 games in his 11th MLB season — Atlanta can now exercise the team $4 million option on Tyler Flowers for 2018 (given Flowers’ production, including this year’s 8.7 offensive WAR, it’s a no-brainer) and have will two catchers who combined for 4.5 WAR in 2017 .

That’s a WAR better than what the Cardinals got from Yadier Molina this season (2.2) at $1.25 million less than Molina will receive next year.

The Flowers/Suzuki combination were the driving forces behind the Braves having a 4.4 collective WAR at catcher, which ranked only behind the Giants (4.5) and Cubs (4.4).

The right-handed Suzuki, who has his third multi-home run game of the season on Friday night vs. the Phillies, was certain to gain serious interest this offseason.

Of the other top catches entering the free agent market, only Alex Avila (2.4) had a higher WAR than Suzuki’s 2.2, with Chris Iannetta behind the Braves backstop, as is Jonathan Lucroy (0.7).

That makes it a bit of a coup that the Braves were able to convince him to stay put, though he has been adamant that he’s been very comfortable in a part-time role, which helped him surpass his previous career-best 15 home runs, set in 2009 with the A’s when he racked up 614 plate appearances or 327 less than this season in sharing the catching duties.

Instead of needing to worry about whether one of the young catchers like David Freitas (.235/.235/.353 in 17 at-bats) can take strides or if the likes of 24-year-old Kade Scivicque (.270/.326/.365 in Double-A, TripleA) can push for a spot by Opening Day, the Braves are returning a viable catching duo they’re comfortable with. And they’re doing it at a value.

Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney and Facebook. His books, ‘Tales from the Atlanta Braves Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Braves Stories Ever Told,’ and ‘The Heisman Trophy: The Story of an American Icon and Its Winners.’ are now available.