Angels sign catcher Suzuki to 1-year deal

January 16th, 2021

ANAHEIM -- The Angels explored several avenues to improve their catching situation and ultimately decided to sign veteran catcher to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million on Friday, giving them more flexibility to acquire pitching help this offseason.

Suzuki will serve as the backup catcher to Max Stassi with Anthony Bemboom, remaining on the 40-man roster to provide depth. Stassi is coming off left hip surgery in October, but the club is optimistic he’ll be ready for Spring Training. Suzuki, 37, signed at a below-market rate because of his desire to join the club, which allows the Angels to allocate more resources elsewhere.

“He's a first-class individual, he had other offers for more money,” said general manager Perry Minasian. “This is where he wanted to be, which is important to us as an organization. We want players that that want to be a part of the Angel family. He passed up a better offer, and we felt like this is a really good fit. We’re really, really excited to have him.”

With the acquisition of Suzuki, it takes the Angels out of the sweepstakes to sign free agent J.T. Realmuto or trade for the Cubs’ Willson Contreras. Catching remains a long-term need for the organization, but the Angels are looking to spend their money in the short term on pitching.

The Angels are roughly $35 million under the luxury tax this offseason, but Minasian declined to say whether the club would be willing to go above that threshold. The Halos do have some long-term flexibility, as only superstars Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon are signed beyond the 2022 season, with Albert Pujols’ contract set to expire after ’21 and Justin Upton’s ending after ‘22.

“Starting pitching is a priority,” Minasian said. “I feel good with where we’re at. I feel confident that when the right opportunity presents itself, we’ll be able to improve the rotation.”

Suzuki has local ties, as he won the College World Series with Cal State Fullerton in 2004, and is familiar with Minasian from their time together with the Braves in 2018.

Suzuki played in 33 games with the Nationals in the shortened 2020 season, hitting .270/.349/.396 with two homers and 17 RBIs in 33 games. He has remained a productive hitter late in his career, as he also batted .264/.324/.486 with a career-high 17 home runs and 63 RBIs in 85 games in '19, helping the Nationals win a World Series title.

Suzuki, an All-Star with the Twins in '14, has played 14 seasons in the Majors, batting .259/.316/.392 with 133 homers and 669 RBIs in 1,512 games. He’s also considered a clubhouse leader, and, with his experience, he’ll help the pitching staff as well.

“We see him as a quality backup catcher,” Minasian said. “A guy that can catch twice a week, three times a week. If needed, he could catch more. It takes a lot of toughness and durability to catch 13 seasons in the Majors. There's not a lot of guys that have been able to accomplish that."