Late Thursday evening the Washington Nationals agreed to trade catcher Kurt Suzuki and cash considerations back to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Dakota Bacus. To fill Suzuki’s spot on the roster, the Nationals are expected to recall Jhonatan Solano from Triple-A Syracuse before Friday’s game in Kansas City.
Washington acquired Suzuki last August to bolster their catching depth after sustaining injuries to both Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores, receiving him from the Athletics for catching prospect David Freitas. Fast forward a year and now the Athletics find themselves with injuries to both of their catchers, John Jaso and Derek Norris, which quickly necessitated Oakland finding depth at the position as they chase a playoff berth in the American League West.
The 29-year-old Suzuki struggled offensively this season, batting only .222/.283/.310 with 3 home runs and 25 runs batted in 79 games over 252 at-bats. However, Suzuki is better known for his valuable defensive skills behind the plate, especially his ability to block pitches in the dirt, and work with pitchers. Not to mention Suzuki did a nice job for Washington last season, batting .267/.321/.404 with 5 home runs and having many clutch hits down the stretch. Washington held a team option for Suzuki in 2014 at $8.5 million, but the Nationals were uninterested in exercising it with Ramos projected as the starting catcher for the next few seasons.
Ever since Ramos has returned from the disabled list, consistent playing time has been difficult for Suzuki to find, making this trade an understandable decision by the Nationals. The team still has catchers Solano and Sandy Leon on the 40-man roster, and must decide in the final weeks of the season if they can sufficiently serve as Ramos’ backups in 2014. This additional evaluation time for these two at the major league level is yet another positive of this trade.
In return for Suzuki, the Nationals received 22-year-old right-handed pitcher Dakota Bacus, Oakland’s 9th round pick in the 2012 draft from Indiana State University. Bacus has spent 2013 at Low-A Beloit going 9-5 with a 3.56 ERA over 121.1 innings pitched, with 124 hits allowed, 38 walks, and 90 strikeouts. Bacus features a low-90s fastball, a slider that scouts rate as a plus pitch, and a useable changeup, which along with his impressive 6-2 205lbs. size could allow him to remain a starting pitcher. Some have speculated a move to the bullpen could be in his future, as he could find a bit more velocity in shorter bursts and become a two-pitch (fastball and slider) reliever. Either way, Bacus is an interesting prospect and a nice return for only five weeks of Suzuki’s services.
This trade essentially tells diehard Nationals fans what we have already known for weeks, that this World Series or Bust season is ending up a failure as the team will miss the playoffs. Understanding Suzuki did not have a future with the organization beyond this season, Mike Rizzo was wise to save some money, pick up an intriguing prospect to add to the farm system, and make a classy gesture to Suzuki by sending him to a contender for the rest of the season. Although Nats fans wish the roles were reversed and the team was adding quality players for the playoff chase, give the Nationals front office credit for properly recognizing the situation and looking to improve the organization in the future.
NatsGM Overall Grade -> B