MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Twins have found a replacement for Joe Mauer at catcher.
The Twins and catcher Kurt Suzuki agreed to a $2.75 million, one-year contract on Friday, a person with knowledge of the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Suzuki has to pass a physical before the contract can be signed.
Minnesota was in the market for a veteran catcher after announcing last month that Mauer was moving to first base. It was a difficult decision for Mauer, the two-time AL batting champion who always has felt his value to the team was highest when he was catching.
But a concussion from a batted ball deflecting off his head on Aug. 19 ended his season and ultimately is what convinced Mauer to relent. The Twins had an opening at first base after trading Justin Morneau to Pittsburgh, so Mauer will take over for his long-time friend as the full-time first baseman.
Once that decision was made, the Twins went into the free-agent market looking for a veteran who could handle a revamped pitching staff and give them some production at the plate. They had conversations with A.J. Pierzynski and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but both chose to sign elsewhere.
That’s when the Twins turned their attention to Suzuki, who hit .232 with five homers and 32 RBIs for the Washington Nationals and Oakland Athletics last season. He’ll be counted on to help integrate newcomers Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes to the starting rotation and bring along younger pitchers like Kyle Gibson and Alex Meyer.
The 30-year-old Suzuki will also be tasked with mentoring prospect Josmil Pinto, who filled in nicely for Mauer at the end of last season. Pinto hit .342 with four homers in 21 games last season. But the 24-year-old Venezuelan has a long way to go when it comes to defense and calling a game, so Suzuki and bench coach Terry Steinbach will be there to help him along.
Suzuki only threw out 12 percent of base stealers last season, but has thrown out 26 percent in his big league career.
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