The Athletics officially announced the acquisition of catcher Kurt Suzuki from the Washington Nationals for pitching prospect Dakota Bacus. The A’s badly needed a catcher due to John Jaso’s unforeseen extended stay on the disabled list and Derek Norris’s fractured toe. Stephen Vogt is the only healthy catcher on the 25 man roster and the only other catcher on the 40 man roster besides Vogt is Luke Montz who has been dealing with a serious shoulder injury for over a month and who does not appear to be coming back soon. The concern for catching depth grew to near emergency heights after a home plate collision nearly forced Vogt out of the game. Before the acquisition of Suzuki the emergency back up catcher was Josh Donaldson. No one, especially the organization, would want to see that though as that would place the team’s best hitter in jeopardy.
Suzuki will bring veteran and postseason experience to the catching position for the A’s. Stephen Vogt played for the Rays down the stretch last season for the Tampa Bay Rays in limited action, but the team did not make the postseason. With Norris and Jaso hurt the A’s had no catchers with postseason experience. Suzuki brings leadership, familiarity, and great defense to the table. One problem highlighted in the last few days has been Norris and Vogt’s deficiencies in blocking balls in the dirt. Norris has had problems in his time in Oakland with balls in the dirt most crucially costing the A’s in last years ALDS against the Detroit Tigers.
There are two holes currently in Suzuki’s game that will need to be improved to make the A’s acquisition of him a success. For one he needs to throw would be base stealers at a higher rate. This year he has only thrown out 10% of runners attempting to steal compared to a 26% career average. This could be occurring due to lack of consistent playing time however that may continue since the A’s plan to use Suzuki in a platoon role with Stephen Vogt. Vogt has been on a terror of late gunning down base runners and could potentially help Suzuki in that department.
Another facet that will need to improve is Suzuki’s offense. Since his break out seasons of 2008 and 2009 Suzuki has hit above .260 once and has seen his on base percentage become increasingly difficult to take. If he can hit above .275 the rest of the way and have an on base percentage of over .300 the A’s will have made an amazing trade.
The player going the other way, Dakota Bacus, does not appear to be anything more than a back end starter in the Major Leagues according to multiple scouting sites. He has average stuff that does not miss bats very often. Basically the A’s gave up little to acquire an important piece to helping down the stretch run.
This trade was an important one for the A’s to make. They need catching depth but couldn’t sacrifice defense for a fill-in. Kurt Suzuki not only brings excellent game calling and defense which could save the A’s runs, but a familiarity with the pitching staff, team, and fan base. This deal could pay huge dividends for a struggling A’s team and this is the type of move that energizes a team going through a stretch run.