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  • Trade Candidate: Kurt Suzuki

    The All-Star Game is behind us. The Minnesota Twins and Major League Baseball put together an extraordinary event. It may have jumped up on us, but we are just two weeks away from the July 31 trade deadline. There were a couple trades made before the All-Star break, and I think that teams could start making deals quickly.

    The Twins come out of the All-Star break on Friday with a series at home against the Tampa Bay Rays. That will be followed by three games against Cleveland and four games against the White Sox, all at home. If things don't go exceedingly well through that ten game stretch, the Twins could decide to be sellers. If that's the case, the Twins have several trade candidates and over the next couple of weeks we will take a look at them.

    That said, today we will begin our Trade Candidate Series by looking at arguably the Twins Most Valuable Player through the All-Star break, Kurt Suzuki.

    Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn

    Suzuki was named to his first All-Star Game this season, his first with the Minnesota Twins after spending most of his career with the Oakland A's, as well as 122 games with the Nationals. After posting OPS over .700 his first three seasons (2007-09), he has really struggled the last couple of years. The Twins took a shot on him in the offseason at a reasonable $2.75 million. The assumption from many outside the organization was that he would be a part-time player, a mentor for Josmil Pinto. Instead, he earned the starting job and has held on to it.

    WHY TRADE HIM

    If you believe in the philosophy of Buy Low and Sell High, this could be the perfect baseball example. The Twins were able to get Suzuki for a fair rate because of his struggles the last few years. It only makes sense to sell high. His value will likely never be higher, and the Twins should capitalize on that. The Twins are still a team in transition, and as strong as the minor league system is, it never hurts to add more talent. The Twins, and Terry Ryan, did a great job of this in the late-90s.

    In 1996, the Twins signed Dave Hollins to play third base. In 121 games for the Twins, he hit .242/.364/.396 (.760) with 26 doubles and 13 home runs. They were able to trade him in late August for a young David Ortiz.

    Also, before the 1996 season, the Twins signed Roberto Kelly. He played as a part-timer in 1996 and hit .287/.336/.441 with 19 doubles and five home runs before being traded to the Mariners for Joe Mays.

    These players were not performing to the level that Suzuki has this year, while playing a premium position, so the Twins could get a nice package.

    WHY KEEP HIM

    I don't know that anyone has given up, per se, on the idea of Josmil Pinto being an adequate catcher at some point, but the reality is that he is enough of a liability behind the plate that it's hard to envision him being the top catcher. (But yes, he can hit.) The next catcher in the minor league ladder that is potentially a starting catcher is Stuart Turner, the team's 3rd round pick in 2013 out of Ole Miss who is spending this season with the Ft. Myers Miracle. He is at least two years away from being ready for that.

    Though the controversial pitch framing statistics do not shine a positive light on Suzuki, the Twins pitchers have generally been incredibly complimentary of him. He is well-respected around the game and considered a strong leader.

    The Twins can negotiate right now and through free agency with Suzuki in an attempt to shore up their starting catching position for the next two years. Would Suzuki consider re-upping for 2 years and $12 million?

    WHO NEEDS HIM

    There are a couple teams that are in need, at least to some degree, of a catcher. The St. Louis Cardinals lost their all-star catcher, Yadier Molina, to season-ending (most likely) injury. The Baltimore Orioles catcher, Matt Wieters, had Tommy John surgery recently and will miss the remainder of the season.

    Suzuki is not elite, but he is a respected (and now an All-Star) player/leader at a premium position. Twins fans should not expect a team to offer up one of their Top 5 prospects. However, I would think that the Twins could get one prospect around #10 from an organization, plus a prospect who ranks in the team's 20s.

    SUMMARY

    I'm an economics major, so you know I believe in the concept of Buy Low/Sell High. Suzuki's value will likely never be higher. He is putting up career-best numbers at age 30, so to expect him to maintain this value through the rest of the 2014 season (much less for 2-3 more years) is not realistic.

    That said, the Twins don't really have a quality catcher who will be ready to be the team's regular catcher for at least a couple of years.

    There is one best-of-both-worlds scenario that would keep a lot of people happy. They can trade him and sign him. How? Well, the Twins can add a couple of prospects in the next couple of weeks when they trade Suzuki. At the end of the year, he becomes a free agent and can sign with any team, including the Minnesota Twins.

    How do they do this? Terry Ryan and Rob Antony should sit down with Kurt Suzuki and make it very clear to him that they want to keep him around for a couple more years. However, they are not going to the playoffs this year and are still in a position to accumulate as much talent and depth as they can. Talk through trade scenarios with Suzuki and let him know they want to put him in a position to win in 2014. However, make it clear that the Twins plan to pursue him again in November and December when he hits the market again. Obviously no formal promises can be made or details worked out, but the conversation is good to have.

    PROBABILITY

    Honestly, I would put the odds of trading Suzuki at about 60/40 (60% likelihood that he is traded). I would say that there is about a 40% chance that Suzuki stays with the Twins through the remainder of 2014. If he does stay through the end of the season, I would predict that there is a 50/50 chance that the Twins and Suzuki will agree on a multi-year extension before season's end.

    YOUR TURN

    What should the Twins do with Kurt Suzuki? Sign him? Let him play out his contract and see what happens? Trade him? Or, trade him and bring him back? What do you think?
    Comments 74 Comments
    1. tmerrickkeller's Avatar
      tmerrickkeller -
      I may be dis-remembering this, but it struck me at the time that we accumulated a lot of talent for Rick Aguilara under this same philosophy. Trade him for prospects once the season revealed its underbelly, and then sign him again in the winter. Rinse and repeat. If Kurt feels both the joy of playing for this team and the promise of its future, he will understand the motives behind a move and come right back at season's end.

      It is a win-win-win - we get a prospect or two during a rebuilding year, we get to see extended time for his potential replacements, and he is right back on the team for a market contract a few months later.

      Clearly, there are risks involved - he gets a good deal from another team in free agency that we can't/won't match, or we find that Josmil is ready for the show and don't want to pay starter money to Kurt S for multiple years to back him up, but the underlying premise is sound. It is based, purely, on relationships, and I'm in no position to judge his relationship to the front office or their allure to him.
    1. twinstalker's Avatar
      twinstalker -
      Please, oh please, Terry Ryan, try to sell someone at the high point for once. I realize Joe Mauer isn't coming up to replace Suzuki like we had with AJP, but it will be okay in the end if you sell Suzuki. If it's not okay, it's not the end.
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      The trade should be Pinto. While he may hit in the show, it is still a gamble, and I don't see how he can be trusted with a young pitching staff. No way. I see the next good Twins catcher to be Mitch Garver (one of three finalists along with the winner, Stuart Turner, for the 2013 Johnny Bench award and who played with New Mexico, and is right behind Turner in Cedar Rapids), who is wielding an impressive bat - much more so than Turner - and actually IS a catcher very close to Turner with the glove. Suzuki, even if he regresses all the way to around .250 at the plate, would be great to transition the young pitchers coming up, as well as be a leader and a back up ala Mike Redmond for a couple years after Garver and Turner take over. Pinto......... not a catcher that can lead and control the game. Having him be the catcher for the young staff scares me (and Perkins). He is a DH at best, and that is only if he proves to hit in the show consistently. I see a lot of holes in his swing, and I am not even betting on that.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      It would be a major mistake to waste this opportunity to pick up a prospect potentially up into the 150-250 range, but certainly in the 250-400 range, especially with regard to the Cardinals or Orioles. Patrick Wisdom and Carson Kelly come to mind from the Cardinals. Tim Berry and Parker Bridwell come to mind for the Orioles.

      I do think that it would be a mistake to then re-sign Suzuki in the offseason. But even in such a scenario, it would be a complete waste to let him finish this season as a Twin. Give the rest of the season to Pinto and Herrmann and get over it. See what happens there for two+ months and then decide about Suzuki and others in the offseason. This is an OBVIOUS decision to make to add depth to the minor league system.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by h2oface View Post
      The trade should be Pinto. While he may hit in the show, it is still a gamble, and I don't see how he can be trusted with a young pitching staff. No way. I see the next good Twins catcher to be Mitch Garver (one of three finalists along with the winner, Stuart Turner, for the 2013 Johnny Bench award who played with New Mexico), who has a way better bat and actually IS a catcher very close to Turner with the glove. Suzuki, even if he regresses all the way to around .250 at the plate, would be great to transition the young pitchers coming up, as well as be a leader and a back up ala Mike Redmond for a couple years after Garver and Turner take over. Pinto......... not a catcher that can lead and control the game. He is a DH at best, and that is only if he proves to hit in the show consistently. I see a lot of holes in his swing, and I am not even betting on that.
      Interesting take. One could also see value in trading Garver and/or Turner before they turn into pumpkins (I think this will happen to Turner. Garver is good, but they are, for whatever terrible reason, not promoting him to Fort Myers right now).
    1. ND_TROOPER_GUY's Avatar
      ND_TROOPER_GUY -
      Hopefully we can trade off several veterans this year. Morales, Correia, and perhaps Willingham. However, I'm inclined to keep Suzuki. I recall from an earlier post that the free agency catcher options are very underwhelming next year. If he signs for a modest 2 year extension say in the 10-12 range or maybe one year plus a team option I would not complain. With several young pitchers coming up in the next year of so I believe the veteran backstop would be a wise investment. Even if he ends up backing up Pinto next year I still feel he's a wise investment.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Wow. i love these threads that are premised: "If he signs a team-friendly contract"--one/two years at jouyneyman's wages. Recall Willingham received 3 years and $21MM. Suzuki will be in demand this offseason. Suzuki "served his time" (one-year, make-good contract with a poor team)--and made good. The demands will be commensurate, 4-years and $32MM (and I might be low). After the Twins FO fantasy contract offers are removed from the equation, now what do you do with Suzuki? Pay full price, and solve your "Catcher problems", seek another one-year "fallen star" (and pray), or grind out a solution internally biting your tongue?
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      yeah, Suzuki is going to want a big contract this offseason. He'd be crazy not to want that.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kwak View Post
      Wow. i love these threads that are premised: "If he signs a team-friendly contract"--one/two years at jouyneyman's wages. Recall Willingham received 3 years and $21MM. Suzuki will be in demand this offseason. Suzuki "served his time" (one-year, make-good contract with a poor team)--and made good. The demands will be commensurate, 4-years and $32MM (and I might be low). After the Twins FO fantasy contract offers are removed from the equation, now what do you do with Suzuki? Pay full price, and solve your "Catcher problems", seek another one-year "fallen star" (and pray), or grind out a solution internally biting your tongue?
      McCann is the only catcher in recent history to get more than a 3 year contract. McCann>>>Suzuki
      Saltalamacchia got 7m/year. I don't think inflation has hit that hard in salaries.
      Agent demands could be high, that is what they try. Recent history would hint at a little lower price tag, and no more than 3 years.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      I'm an economics major, so you know I believe in the concept of Buying Low and Selling High. Suzuki's value will likely never be higher. He is putting up career-best numbers at age 30, so to expect him to maintain this value through the rest of the 2014 season (much less for 2-3 more years) is not realistic.
      This
      2014 is for Suzuki what 2012 was for Willingham and Diamond. The issue here is that pretty much everyone knows that it is likely and aberration and that will affect the return. It will matter if someone is desperate enough to part with prospects.

      Re-signing him this off-season will be paying high for the Twins, which means paying a likely back up player starter wages (and starting him because they are paying him like one.) That would be buying high. Not advisable...
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinstalker View Post
      Please, oh please, Terry Ryan, try to sell someone at the high point for once.
      Like Denard Span and Ben Revere?

      I understand the Ryan doesn't move players when some people want him to move them (never mind that peoples' notion of "sell high" is often unreasonable) but let's not pretend that he doesn't move some players at precisely the right time. Span's value collapsed almost immediately after the trade and Revere wasn't far behind him.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      This
      2014 is for Suzuki what 2012 was for Willingham and Diamond. The issue here is that pretty much everyone knows that it is likely and aberration and that will affect the return. It will matter if someone is desperate enough to part with prospects.

      Re-signing him this off-season will be paying high for the Twins, which means paying a likely back up player starter wages (and starting him because they are paying him like one.) That would be buying high. Not advisable...
      I think you offer him 2/16. If he takes it great. If he doesn't you move him. Will he take this? Probably not. But you never know. He has made a decent amount of money and doesn't strke me as a guy with three lambo's in his garage.

      We absolutely can't let him play out this year without an extension.

      I understand the sell high logic, I get it. Will Suzuki hit .300 and be an all star the next two years? NO. That is not the important point here. But my fear is, who will catch for the Twins next year?

      The free agent list, beyond Russell Martin is downright scary. We don't trust Pinto, it is clear as day. And we need to drop the fantasy about playing a catcher in A ball next year. Not going to happen.

      I have seen this franchise say great things about catchers in the low minors, only to not trust them at the big league level over and over again.

      IMO, we have Eric Fryer behind the plate next year with 300-400 at bats. That is the risk. The ideal trade partner would be both a contender with a hole at catcher and some catching depth at about AA, so we can give them Suzuki for a guy that could catch for us about June of next year.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Suzuki is the one expiring veteran I'm ok with them retaining. But given the catcher need out there...I sure hope we explore trading aggressively as well.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Suzuki is the one expiring veteran I'm ok with them retaining. But given the catcher need out there...I sure hope we explore trading aggressively as well.
      Yeah. I'm pretty wishy-washy on trading Suzuki because the Twins have no catching depth and the free agent market looks brutal this offseason.

      But, without a doubt, the option should be explored.
    1. kdrupp09's Avatar
      kdrupp09 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Yeah. I'm pretty wishy-washy on trading Suzuki because the Twins have no catching depth and the free agent market looks brutal this offseason.

      But, without a doubt, the option should be explored.
      I think given what the Twins have in the system and what will be available this offseason the only way the Twins trade Suzuki is if they get blown away on an offer. I think if you get offered a top 10 prospect and possibly another Top 20 Top 30 prospect than you make the trade. However, I don't see someone giving that good of an offer for a rental with no guarantee of next season. So long way around, I think Suzuki does not get traded and ultimately signs an extension with the team.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      the more I look at his defense, the less I like re-signing him. I've made that point in the Suzuki thread, so I won't repeat it here.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Like Denard Span and Ben Revere?

      I understand the Ryan doesn't move players when some people want him to move them (never mind that peoples' notion of "sell high" is often unreasonable) but let's not pretend that he doesn't move some players at precisely the right time. Span's value collapsed almost immediately after the trade and Revere wasn't far behind him.
      To tell the whole story though, it was Washington and Philadelphia that initiated the trade talks in both cases, not Ryan. Based on that history, I hope St Louis or Baltimore, or both, and others like the Jays, start a bidding war for Suzuki's services and the Twins net another future potential ace currently playing at A+ or AA ball & another serviceable bat or arm.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      the more I look at his defense, the less I like re-signing him. I've made that point in the Suzuki thread, so I won't repeat it here.
      What is the alternative in your scenario?

      AJ?
      Internal?
      Another FA on another one-year deal?
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      To tell the whole story though, it was Washington and Philadelphia that initiated the trade talks in both cases, not Ryan. Based on that history, I hope St Louis or Baltimore, or both, and others like the Jays, start a bidding war for Suzuki's services and the Twins net another future potential ace currently playing at A+ or AA ball & another serviceable bat or arm.
      If we get an Alex Meyer type prospect in rookie ball or A ball, you send Kurt on his way and figure it out next year. If the haul is a Scott Diamond, Sean Gilmartin type, pay the guy some money to catcher here for the next few years.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I'd roll with Pinto and Herrman (sp?) or Fryer. Get Pinto up here and developing/adjusting. At some point, you need to hand the team over to the young players. I understand that others disagree, and that's cool with me. It won't depress me if they sign him, but I think people are over looking the pitch framing issue because they don't buy the stat (when it is probably the most accurate and realiable defensive stat, actually).
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