Returning to the Nationals was always a long shot for Kurt Suzuki.
Upon being dismissed by the New York Yankees after the 1960 World Series, manager Casey Stengel quipped, “I’ll never make the mistake of turning 70 again.” Even though he had taken the Yankees to ten World Series in his twelve years, Stengel was deemed “too old” to manage. Kurt Suzuki faced a similar consequence this offseason. His age was standing in the way of him returning to the Washington Nationals.
Suzuki, who signed a one year contract, worth $1.5M with the Los Angeles Angels, will be joining his fifth team since breaking into the majors in 2007.
When Suzuki entered free agency at the end of the season, there was some talk the Nationals could bring him back to pair with Yan Gomes for a third season. The Nationals have been connected to J.T. Realmuto throughout the offseason, though are reluctant to meet his salary demands.
With every passing day and a limited catching market becoming thinner by the day, there was alway the possibility of Suzuki returning to DC. However, for a Nationals team who was the oldest in the majors a year ago, the need to get younger has always loomed. At 37 years of age, not bringing Suzuki back would allow the Nationals to get younger at the catcher position.
Another number which haunted Suzuki, was his 23% caught stealing rate. In his two years with the Nationals, Suzuki caught 105 regular season games. He allowed 73 stolen bases against him. True, Suzuki is only half of this equation and he didn’t receive much help from his slow-to-the-plate pitching staff.
Opposing teams were at the point where they were running at will with Suzuki behind the plate. The recent additions of Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber, offensive first minded players, made it essential for the Nationals to try and upgrade the defense at the catcher position.
In the pandemic shortened season, Suzuki had a slugging percentage of .396. This was his lowest since 2015. Entering the 2021 season, the Nationals made clear they would focus on acquiring “big bats”. We may still see this at the catching position, though not many options remain on the market. With Suzuki’s deteriorating offensive numbers, and poor defensive numbers, his return to Washington was always in question.
For Nationals fans, we’ll always be grateful to Kurt Suzuki for his 2019 season, and Suzuki will always have the phrase World Champion, to put on his resume. Best of luck in Los Angeles, Kurt.