It is a rare instance when a team can make a pennant-run acquisition and know exactly how that player is going to fit into the team's clubhouse culture. But the Oakland A's were able to make that deal on Friday, re-acquiring catcher Kurt Suzuki from the Washington Nationals for the stretch run.
It was just a little more than a year ago when the A's traded Suzuki to Washington for minor league prospect David Freitas. Up until the trade, Suzuki had been the A's primary catcher for more than five seasons. A 2004 second-round pick of the A's, Suzuki hit .254 with 57 homeruns in 703 games for the A's from 2007 until late 2012.
Suzuki helped lead the Nationals to their first NL East title since returning to Washington last season. In 43 games with the Nats, he posted a 725 OPS and was a calming influence on their young rotation. Suzuki had two RBI in the Nats' five-game NLDS series loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Washington was expected to return to the post-season in 2013, but the Nats have struggled for most of the year. They are currently a game under .500 and 14 games back of the Atlanta Braves in the East and 12 games back of the wild card. Suzuki, like many of the Nationals, has struggled offensively this season. In 281 at-bats, he has a 593 OPS and he has hit only three homeruns.
The A's didn't acquire Suzuki for his offense, however. Although he struggles to throw out potential base-stealers, Suzuki is widely respected for his ability to handle a pitching staff and call a good game. Suzuki has caught every member of the A's starting rotation, with the exception of rookies Sonny Gray and Dan Straily, and he has caught most of the pitchers in the A's bullpen, as well. Suzuki was one of the most popular teammates in the A's clubhouse while he was with the team, and he could provide an emotional boost for a team that has struggled over the past few weeks.
In exchange for Suzuki, the A's are sending right-handed pitching prospect Dakota Bacus to Washington. Bacus was the A's 9th-round pick in 2012 out of Indiana State University. The Des Moines, Illinois native was an Arizona Rookie League All-Star last season when he posted a 1.20 ERA and struck-out 35 while walking just five in 30 innings.
This year, Bacus got to pitch close to home in the Midwest League. He has been in the Low-A Beloit Snappers' rotation for much of the 2013 season. Bacus has a 3.56 ERA and a 90:38 K:BB in 121 innings pitched this season. Armed with a power sinker, Bacus has a 52% groundball rate this season.
Bacus joins A.J. Cole, Ian Krol and Blake Treinen as A's pitching prospects recently sent to the Nationals organization. Bacus is a three-pitch pitcher with a fastball that sits in the low-90s, a plus breaking ball and a developing change-up. The 22-year-old has a 2.45 ERA in four August starts, spanning 25 innings.
Had Derek Norris not fractured his toe this week, the A's may not have looked to add Suzuki to their catching mix, despite the fact that John Jaso may miss the rest of the season with a concussion. While Stephen Vogt has done a solid job filling in for Jaso, the A's couldn't risk having a rookie be their everyday catcher while they try to get back to the post-season. Now the A's can continue their platoon situation at catcher with Vogt and Suzuki and they will be particularly deep at catcher when Norris recovers from his injury.
The Suzuki deal doesn't necessarily mean the A's are done acquiring catchers, however. If Norris is expected to be out much past September 1st, the A's may still look to bring in a minor league catcher by the end of August that they can add to the big league roster after the September 1st roster expansion date. The Suzuki deal also shouldn't preclude the A's from making additional deals over the next week-and-a-half, should the opportunity present itself. According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Nationals are picking up nearly a million dollars of Suzuki's remaining salary.
Other News and Notes
- A's 2013 sixth-round pick Kyle Finnegan has been promoted to Low-A Beloit, taking Bacus' place on the Snappers' roster. Finnegan, a hard-throwing right-hander from Texas State, has a 2.70 ERA in 11 starts for short-season Vermont. In 50 innings, he has yet to allow a homerun and he has a 35:12 K:BB. Six of those walks came in one start.
- Midland OF D'Arby Myers extended his hitting streak to 28 games on Thursday night. Myers' streak is the longest in affiliated baseball this year. He is batting .290 in 449 at-bats this season and is hitting .310 since the All-Star break.
- After 11.1 rehab innings with the AZL A's, right-hander Ryan Doolittle has re-joined the Stockton Ports' rotation. Doolittle is completing his recovery from Tommy John surgery, which he had last year. At the time of his elbow injury, Doolittle had a 1.48 ERA and a 31:3 K:BB in 24.1 innings for Stockton. Shaeffer Hall was placed on the disabled list for Stockton.