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Suzuki returns to Nationals on 2-year deal

Veteran catcher impressed by Rizzo's pitch, signs for $10M
MLB.com @mlbbowman

When Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo made him feel like a priority, Kurt Suzuki jumped at the opportunity to rejoin a team that celebrated its first division title with his presence in 2012.

"I talked to my agent, and he said Rizzo was really aggressive at the beginning of free agency," Suzuki said. "He told my agent I was their guy. I told them I'd do whatever they want. I'm just trying to help them win."

When Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo made him feel like a priority, Kurt Suzuki jumped at the opportunity to rejoin a team that celebrated its first division title with his presence in 2012.

"I talked to my agent, and he said Rizzo was really aggressive at the beginning of free agency," Suzuki said. "He told my agent I was their guy. I told them I'd do whatever they want. I'm just trying to help them win."

Suzuki's two-year, $10 million contract was officially announced by the Nationals on Tuesday morning. After spending the past two years with the division-rival Braves, the veteran catcher looks forward to reuniting with Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg, who were also part of Washington's memorable 98-win season in 2012.

"We had a very talented team," Suzuki said. "Things didn't go as planned [in the postseason]. The team we have now is not that much different. When I was on the other side, [the Nationals] were always a feared team. They have everything it takes to win a World Series. Everything looks good on paper, but you've got to go out on the field and perform."

Tweet from @Nationals: Hey DC, he's coming back!Here's a special message to #Nats fans from Kurt Suzuki! pic.twitter.com/f5OXIwZYfc

When Suzuki declined an offer from the Braves in August, he was confident he would hit the free-agent market and receive the comfort provided by this deal. Rizzo's motivation to strike quickly in a thin catcher market was fueled by Matt Wieters' entry to the free-agent market leaving Spencer Kieboom and Pedro Severino as the only internal catching options.

There's certainly still a chance the Nationals will target another veteran to serve as the primary catcher or possibly split the duties with the 35-year-old Suzuki.

"At this point of my career, I don't have an ego," Suzuki said. "I've never had an ego. [Rizzo] just said I'm their guy. Whether that means catching 120, 100, 90 or 80 games, it doesn't matter to me. He just said I was the guy who was being brought in to help this team win."

Video: ATL@ARI: Suzuki puts Braves ahead with a solo jack

Suzuki served as Washington's catcher during portions of the 2012 and '13 seasons. He had an .825 OPS with 31 home runs over two seasons with the Braves. Before hitting 19 homers in '17 and 12 in '18, he had not produced a double-digit homer total since 2011. His 18.89 home runs per at-bat dating back to July 1, 2017, ranks 18th among all National League players and second among NL catchers (minimum 500 at-bats).

While Suzuki's bat still has some value, his arm and framing metrics ranked among the game's lowest this past season. Per Statcast™, Suzuki's 2.08 pop time to second base ranked third-worst among qualified catchers. Per Stat Corner, he ranked as the game's fourth-worst pitch framer in terms of runs above average.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.

Washington Nationals, Kurt Suzuki