When the Braves signed Kurt Suzuki in January, they knew they were landing an experienced catcher at a cheap price ($1.5M for the 2017 season). The game plan was for Suzuki to provide insurance in case of a Tyler Flowers injury, as well as catch R.A. Dickey every 5 days. But there is no way the Braves could have known what they would actually be getting from Suzuki.
Through 49 games and 180 plate appearances, Suzuki has hit 12 HR while on his way to a career best .872 OPS and a 122 wRC+. All told, Suzuki’s 1.5 fWAR ranks 13th among MLB catchers, despite not being his own team’s starting catcher. Much of Suzuki’s success has come from a large spike in his home runs per fly ball rate (17.6%; career rate of 6.4%). On top of that, Suzuki seems to have taken a play from Josh Donaldson’s playbook of trying to hit more fly balls. Through August 1st, Suzuki has posted a 50% fly ball rate, well above his career rate of 39%. So far, the shift in strategy has paid huge dividends for Suzuki’s offensive performance.
Entering today’s action, there are 21 teams with below league-average (100 wRC+) offensive production at catcher. Among those 21 teams, 9 are above .500 and chasing a playoff spot (although one of those teams, the Rockies, recently added Jonathan Lucroy). That would leave 8 teams that could potentially receive a shot in the arm with the addition of Suzuki. At a modest $1.5M 2017 salary and a visit to the free agent market once again in 2018, Suzuki could be a very intriguing short-term option for someone.
The 2017 non-waiver trade deadline ended with Suzuki still wearing a Braves uniform on Monday, but it’s not too late to place Suzuki on revocable waivers and try to work out a deal with a contender.