|Get well soon, Matt Wieters|
Currently, the MLB average catcher has a .309 wOBA. That's about what Steamer projects for Suzuki for the rest of the season (.304 wOBA), while ZiPS has him hitting marginally better (.315 wOBA). Still, hitting like an average MLB catcher would be helpful considering the two catchers currently on the O's active roster: Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley. In 138 plate appearances, Joseph is hitting .195/.274/.305 (.263 wOBA); in 81 plate appearances with the O's, Hundley is batting even worse: .213/.244/.325 (.251 wOBA). So Suzuki's bat would be helpful in that regard.
But what about defense? Earlier in his career, Suzuki showed flashes of high-quality defensive prowess, but he's probably about average now. The same goes for Hundley. But in limited work, Joseph has seemingly been outstanding behind the plate and would have to be considered the best defensive catcher of the three. (The Orioles also have Steve Clevenger at Triple-A Norfolk. He's probably an upgrade to Joseph/Hundley offensively, but anywhere from average to below average defensively.)
If the O's made a move for Suzuki, he'd certainly be the team's everyday catcher. For the rest of the season, Steamer projects Suzuki to be worth 0.8 fWAR (in 171 PAs), Joseph to be worth 0.3 fWAR (in 99 PAs), and Hundley to be worth 0.6 fWAR (in 119 PAs). If all of them stay healthy, they'll receive many more plate appearances than that -- particularly Suzuki. And sure, those are just projections, but it's also reasonable to suggest that Suzuki has already played his best baseball of the season. (Right now, he's at 2.2 bWAR and 1.5 fWAR; he hasn't had a season above 0.2 bWAR or 0.6 fWAR since 2011.)
The O's need to figure out if they are willing to sacrifice some defense behind the plate for better hitting. That likely will depend on the price, which shouldn't be that high since Suzuki is not any kind of massive upgrade and is also a free agent after the year (he's on a one-year, $2.75 million contract). Orioles' coaches seem to value Joseph's rapport with the pitching staff, so he'd likely remain as the team's backup catcher if they pick up Suzuki.
Perhaps the Orioles should find a taker for Hundley (which they may have tried to do last week) and promote Clevenger instead of giving up anything for Suzuki's services. Suzuki would probably help, but maybe not as much as you think.
Photo via Keith Allison