25 July 2014

Should the Orioles Consider Acquiring Kurt Suzuki?

Do you think the Orioles need a better catching option? According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the Orioles and Cardinals have both expressed interest in acquiring catcher Kurt Suzuki from the Twins. This season, Suzuki is batting .308/.367/.393 (.339 wOBA) in 331 plate appearances.

Get well soon, Matt Wieters
The 30-year-old Suzuki has a career batting line of .258/.315/.377 (.305 wOBA). So he's likely playing over his head right now, thanks in part to a .330 BABIP (career .274). He's cut down on his strikeouts this season and is walking slightly more, but his plate discipline numbers aren't all that different other than him making a bit better contact on pitches outside the strikezone.

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


Anonymous said...

How about Hunter Harvey, Eduardo Rodriguez and Josh Hart for Cole Hamels?

Anonymous said...

No, the Orioles should not acquire Kurt Suzuki.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Hamels is under contract through 2018 and is still owed a bunch of money. I doubt that's the kind of deal the O's are looking for. But he is very good and would become the O's best starter, so I guess anything is possible.

CBreezyThreezy said...

Early on (maybe within a month after the news on Weiters) I would have said that a move for Suzuki was a no-brainer.

Now I'm not so sure. With the way the team has been winning, and the starters have been pitching, I would be afraid of upsetting chemistry.

This is where I always have trouble with these situations, the stats say you should pull the trigger on Suzuki but you would think that managing our current rotation (maybe one pitcher who overpowers you?) would be rough with a completely new guy.

Unknown said...

Yeah, I'm not sure if they should do this or not. If Suzuki reverts back to his career norms, then it wouldn't be much better than just swapping Hundley for Clevenger like the article said. Also, the pitching staff has been on quite the roll the last month or so. I'm not sure how much if that is due to the catchers or what, but they might not want to mess with it as long as it's lasting. I'd rather them just go with Joseph/Clevenger, like they originally had when Wieters went down.

lol on a related note, on another Orioles site I saw people comment about this that they wouldn't trade Joseph for Suzuki straight up and one guy said that Joseph is all around better than Wieters. I don't understand some people. Sure, it's good to root for your players but some people seem to think that because someone is on the Orioles that they are irreplaceable and better than anyone else who could replace them from another team. I'm starting to limit my O's conversations lol.

Unknown said...

Also, it might be worth adding that Joseph is 10-37 this month (.270) although he was something like 8-58 in June. Maybe he can keep it up. Who knows.

Anonymous said...

"On another Orioles site I saw people comment about this that they wouldn't trade Joseph for Suzuki straight up and one guy said that Joseph is all around better than Wieters."

While I wouldn't go that far, it should be noted that Joseph does have a lower career Catcher's ERA than Wieters (3.10 vs. 4.39). If one accepts the reasoning that having automatic out in the lineup is a cheap price to pay for reducing ERA by 30%, then one could argue that Joseph might be a better choice for the team.

Then again... how much "game-calling ability" actually contribute to Catcher's ERA? Probably not that much.

Rick said...

Question for you guys: with Jon Lester saying that he would not mind getting traded and would like to return to the Red Sox, do you think that they would trade him within the division?

My first thought is "no, they compete with the Orioles and wouldn't want to help them win a WS."

But if you consider that they won't make the postseason this year, could steal some prospects from us and use them against the Os in the future, and then sign Lester back next year...it really doesn't seem like a bad idea.

In the event they would trade him, what would it likely take in return?

P.S. I don't see this happening but it still makes me curious.

CBreezyThreezy said...

I would be extremely concerned about Lester saying that he was already fine with coming back to the BoSox if I was a GM. Especially if he went in the division. What is his compete level going to be like?

I know the guy is a professional but I just feel like how can you bring a guy into a division rival team who basically said, "yeah, I'll go wherever for half a season and then come back, that's cool"

Rick said...

Yeah it's definitely interesting. The Red Sox ability to re-sign him is also up in the air, despite him saying he could return--they haven't given him a big enough extension offer yet and free agency would bring him a lot of interested teams.

Hypothetically, if he did end up on a team like the O's, I think his desire to win another WS would overrule. This might be his most impressive season and a continued dominant performance would just continue to increase how much he could raise in free agency.

The more I think about it, Lester's comment is probably truthful, but I think it was mostly to make the fans feel better if the Red Sox do decide to move him.