Halos sign catcher Stassi to 3-year extension

March 25th, 2022

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels made a long-term decision at catcher on Thursday, as they signed Max Stassi to a three-year contract extension worth $17.5 million. The pact includes a $7.5 million club option with a $500,000 buyout for the 2025 season.

Stassi had already agreed to a $3 million contract for 2022 to avoid arbitration, but this deal buys out two of his free agency years, and possibly three if the Halos pick up the club option. He’ll earn $7 million in both '23 and '24.

“It’s what we want to be about -- this guy right here,” Angels general manager Perry Minasian said Friday. “Everything he does on and off the field. Part of the draw was just what he's been through and how he's persevered. For us, the catching position is a very demanding position. From an aptitude standpoint, he's as good as it gets.

"Obviously, there's talent in there, but I think, besides myself and ownership, the happiest people in the room are the pitchers. They know what he does on a daily basis and how much work he puts into it."

It was an important move for the Angels, as they don’t have any top catching prospects considered close to the Majors. Stassi, 31, is regarded as a top defensive catcher. His offense has also drastically improved over the past two seasons after he went 3-for-42 in his first year with the club, when he was acquired at the 2019 Trade Deadline from the Astros.

Stassi changed his hitting mechanics and batted .278/.352/.533 with seven homers and 20 RBIs in 31 games during the shortened 2020 season. He followed that up by hitting .241/.326/.426 with 13 homers and 35 RBIs in 87 games last year. He also was rated as the best pitch framer in baseball, according to FanGraphs' Framing Rate. He’ll serve as the club’s primary catcher in '22, with Kurt Suzuki set to be his backup.

“It feels amazing,” Stassi said. “I worked incredibly hard over the years to get here. There’s more work to be done. This is just the beginning. There’s a lot of unfinished business here.”

Plagued by left hip injuries that required offseason surgery before both the 2020 and '21 campaigns, Stassi entered this past offseason healthy and spent time training at Driveline’s Arizona facility in early February, including catching two-way star Shohei Ohtani. Stassi said he’s fully healthy now and has learned from his experiences in baseball, both good and bad.

"This hasn't been a lineal career path,” Stassi said. “I've been through some ups and downs. If you look at my Baseball-Reference page, there are some dark years in there. So to get to this point, with my family keeping me on track and telling me to keep going forward, they’re thrilled."

The extension came together quickly, as Stassi signed a one-year deal to avoid arbitration on Tuesday, and then the Angels and Stassi’s agent, Joel Wolfe, began talks about a potential long-term contract. The whole process only took roughly 48 hours because of mutual interest on both sides.

"I was completely on board right out of the gate, and it was done pretty quick," Stassi said. "It's been a whirlwind the last couple days, but I couldn't be any happier."