Kurt Suzuki’s Deal Finally Consummated

It is a weird time of the year to be working on contracts but the Athletics have rarely been a team to do things normally. Details emerged today that Oakland has signed Kurt Suzuki to a four-year contract worth at least $16 million. Even more curious is that this latest deal is not an extension but rather also tears up a contract already in place for 2010. Let us step through the deal as presented by Susan Slusser.

Suzuki had been making $420,000 this season. That figure is now $600,000 with an additional $150,000 signing bonus. Suzuki’s salaries then increase to $3.4 million next year, $5 million in 2012 and finally $6.45 million in 2013, what was to be Suzuki’s final year of arbitration. There is a club option for $8.5 million in 2014 that costs Oakland $650K to buy out and is Suzuki plays in at least 118 games in 2013, he is rewarded with a vested option for 2014 at $9.25 million.

With all the nitty gritty out of the way, how does this look on paper? For starters, Suzuki has been extraordinarily consistent of an offensive force while in the Majors. His wRC+s since 2007 have been 96, 97, 97 and stands at 99 this year. I am tempted to give Suzuki credit for the improving trend and make the math easier by calling him exactly league average offense going forward, but his position behind the plate gives me pause. Attrition is high for catchers and 3.5 guaranteed years is a long time. I will proceed with league average offense for the sake of a WAR projection for now however.

I do not feel confident in assigning value on projecting catcher’s defense yet so I will also leave that as average and so the question comes down to playing time. How often Suzuki plays is indirectly tied with my concern on his hitting ability mentioned above, the fear of injuries and general depreciation that comes from the physical strain of catching. For now, Suzuki looks rather robust, averaging 600 trips to the plate the past two seasons and on his way to around 520 this year. Totaled up and Suzuki looks like he might fall a bit short of his 2.6 WAR last year; more in the 2.3 to 2.4 WAR range in 2010.

Based on the payouts above and the rough 40/60/80 scale for arbitration payouts, it is clear that the Athletics are valuing and paying Suzuki at a rate equal to a player producing right around $9.5 million per season in value after factoring in the expected discount for long term security. That is within a fudge factor of where I would peg Suzuki’s performance projections going forward so at least on the guaranteed parts of this deal, it’s a perfectly fair contract. The club and vesting option are both slightly lower than that $9.5 million arbitration valuation, but Suzuki would also be 30 that season and so a discount is warranted. I cannot find fault with this from either side.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

13 Responses to “Kurt Suzuki’s Deal Finally Consummated”

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  1. brent in Korea says:

    Three guaranteed option years is probably unnecessary. I think Oakland should have waited another season and a half at least.

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  2. Paul Thomas says:

    My take on the deal is that it basically pays him what he was going to earn anyway, but now it’s guaranteed, so if he becomes the next Bobby Crosby the team is out the money unnecessarily.

    Very Dave Dombrowski-esque. I’m not a fan.

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  3. fgbomber says:

    …..and the overrated, becomes overrated-er. (Beane)

    If Omar Minaya provides this deal, it would’ve been shredded on the net. It’s a good thing Beane didn’t take that job with the Red Sox. He might be the only guy who wastes more money than Theo.

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  4. DW0304 says:

    Cost certainty – yes please.

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    • 3rd Period Points says:

      I agree. I’m a bit shocked that Beane is being lambasted here. This contract sets an excellent precedent in the clubhouse. He’s above average. He’s 26. He’s kept himself in excellent shape and remained healthy beyond normal expectations for a catcher. As a former catcher, he’s one of my favorite players. I’m glad to see him get lifetime security from this modest (in baseball terms) contract. This contract sets an excellent precedent in the clubhouse. I guess there’s a chance that the money will adversely affect his play, but I doubt it.

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  5. zywicmd says:

    I think we need some defensive projections to really evaluate the quality of this deal. As a hitter, there’s still some room for a bit of growth… but defensively I have no ideas…

    How does the situation and value of Suzuki’s deal compare to the Yadier Molina contract signed in ’08?

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  6. Steve says:

    i thought the book on Suzuki was that he is an excellent defensive catcher. if so, calling him average does him a little bit of a disservice.

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  7. travdog says:

    I think Suzuki is above average defensively, which should add to his value. I’m a little concerned about the amount the A’s play him, and would like to see more games given to Powell.

    I know intangibles aren’t the biggest thing around here, but I don’t think you can ignore Suzuki’s relationship with the pitching staff. Every guy has made huge strides, and I think continuity between the young pitchers and Suzuki could be a huge factor in their success.

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  8. gob bluth says:

    i believe you mean sonsummated

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  9. Wally says:

    I have to agree that we should probably be giving Suzuki a little bit of credit for his defense. The qualitative evidence appears to match what little quantitative evidence we have for catcher fielding. So I think 5-10 runs on defense is not terribly unreasonable. Also, Suzuki is a heck of baserunner for a catcher. Given his all around athleticism I think he’s a little less of a risk for breaking down, for a catcher, as well. I know these things aren’t fully quantified, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore them entirely. So I believe pegging Suzuki as a 2.5 WAR player is basically worst case. And if this deal seems approriate with that assumption, well, then its a pretty good deal. The only thing I don’t like is the vested option, but that’s mitigated a little bit because of the club option the year before.

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  10. Randy says:

    I think they are paying for durability. They may not be able to measure his defensive ability, but their opinion of him is that he is of a higher quality defensively and can hit at least average offensively. He is the type of catcher who can be a workhorse for them, and they are rewarding him for his hard work and his ability to catch more innings that what can be reasonably expected from most other catchers. Perhaps they seem him as a rare breed of catcher and that’s why they are giving him this contract. Some of those things may be hard to measure and especially hard to project, but if they are correct in their assessment then it is probably a good deal.

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