The Los Angeles Angels have reached an agreement on a one-year, $1.5 million deal with former Washington Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki. The 37-year-old Suzuki returns to play seven miles west of Cal State Fullerton’s Goodwin Field where he became a Titans legend and helped them win the 2004 College World Series. The move provides stability at a position in which the Angels have been linked to other free agents and potential trade acquisitions at throughout this winter.
Suzuki heads West
The announcement of Suzuki’s signing comes within minutes of Los Angeles announcing they had come to terms on a 2021 contract with salary arbitration-eligible Max Stassi for one-year, $1.6 million. Prior to today’s signing of Suzuki, Stassi and Anthony Bemboom were the other two catchers on the Angels 40-man roster. The 2014 All-Star brings an experienced veteran presence who is accustomed to sharing catching duties over the past five seasons. The oft-injured Stassi is coming off a breakout 2020 season. He is a superior performer behind the plate while Suzuki brings good game calling who has contributed a .272/.337/.475 line at the plate the past four seasons.
Suzuki is the first major pick-up by new Angels general manager Perry Minasian. He has direct ties to his tenure with Atlanta with who Suzuki played the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Suzuki left the Braves to play for the world champion Washington Nationals in 2019 hitting a home run off Justin Verlander in Game Two of the World Series. He joins fellow championship teammate and friend Anthony Rendon on the Angels. Suzuki also has a long-standing friendship with Albert Pujols playing the final year of his Angels contract this year.
Next for the New GM
Perry Minasian has been actively pursuing starting pitching and catching options for the past two months. The signing of Suzuki to a relatively economically-friendly contract is further evidence that the Angels are providing themselves more funds for potential free-agent starting pitching. The Angels have been rumored and leading contenders for the services of top free agent Trevor Bauer in addition to pitchers Jake Odorizzi, J.A. Happ, among others still available.
Suzuki joins left-handed reliever Alex Claudio as the other MLB free agent signing since Minasian’s November hiring to go with the trade acquisitions of new starting shortstop Jose Iglesias and closer Raisel Iglesias. Missing to date is the addition of a front-line starting pitcher most feel is needed to join current starters Dylan Bundy, Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning, and Shohei Ohtani.
In addition to the signing of Suzuki, the Angels reached agreements with three of their six arbitration-eligible players Friday. Starting pitcher Heaney agreed to 1-year $6.75 million in his final year before free agency. Reliever Mike Mayers ($1.2m) also agreed to a contract for the coming season. Pitchers Bundy, Ohtani, and Felix Pena have exchanged arbitration numbers before today’s deadline and have until hearings to agree on contracts. The determination of these final three contracts will provide the Angels with a clear picture of how much spending they can commit to future signings before exceeding the competitive balance threshold.
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