The Twins appeared to swing and miss last offseason during their search to replace first base-bound Joe Mauer behind the plate.
A.J. Pierzynski turned down their two-year offer to sign with Boston. Jarrod Saltalamacchia turned down a two-year deal to sign with his home-state Miami Marlins.
Kurt Suzuki was, at least, their third option. And did they ever luck out, as he made the All-Star team while Pierzynski was released and Salty started slow. Suzuki is a hit among pitchers for his soft hands, solid game-calling skills and just for being an all-around great guy.
At the plate, he has been Kurt Clutch more than a few times, driving in runs no matter where he was slotted in the batting order.
With prospect Josmil Pinto taking more time to smooth out his rough edges than the Twins might have anticipated, Suzuki has stabilized the position.
Enjoy the one year.
Indications are that the Twins will trade Suzuki after recent discussions between them and agent Dan Lozano revealed that the sides are canyons apart. This is from a person with knowledge of those meetings.
Describing the meetings as “negotiations” would be too strong. The Twins and Lozano, who was in town during All-Star week, had two very brief encounters that got nowhere.
It’s easy to understand why the Twins would shop Suzuki. He’s had a career year, batting 50 points higher than his career average. He has a good reputation and could help a contending team looking for catching. The Orioles, missing All-Star Matt Wieters to injury, reportedly are interested. The Cardinals might have been, too, but they signed Pierzynski on Saturday.
But with the Pinto project ongoing (his catching skills and game-calling need refinement), the Twins could be back at the free-agent market next offseason looking for a catcher, and they might not make out as well after missing out on their first two targets last offseason. The in-house options aren’t great, as Eric Fryer is trying to stick as a backup and Mitchell Garver is at Class A Fort Myers.
The catching market will be thin, very thin. The top two free-agent catchers are expected to be Suzuki and Russell Martin. And, after signing with the Twins for $2.75 million this year, Suzuki will be looking to cash in. The Twins won’t have the options they had last season. They could be forced to trade for a catcher, which would require them to dip into their farm system for trade chips.
Catcher is one of the most vital spots on the field. The Twins should explore trades for Suzuki if they get something nice in return. But the hole his departure would leave would be significant.
Danny Salazar is the future of the Indians rotation, but he was sent down earlier in the season for fine-tuning. He was called up Tuesday to face the Twins and held them to one run over five innings in a game the Indians eventually won 8-2.
It wasn’t all good, as he walked three batters in the second inning, but he settled down after that. “But if you look at a 16-batter stretch, with those three walks included, he threw 10 balls to the other 13 batters. So that’s not too bad,” Cleveland pitching coach Mickey Callaway said.
Salazar’s fastball averaged 94.9 miles an hour.
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Austin Jackson appeared to be miscast as a middle-of-the-order hitter for the Tigers as he began the season batting fifth or sixth. Only recently has he been moved up in the order — and he’s put 30 points on his average.
He went 2-for-5 Wednesday in the Tigers’ victory over Arizona. Since July 2, he’s batting .387 (29-of-75), giving the Tigers a much-needed boost in the leadoff spot.
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Uh-oh! The dreaded vote of confidence has been thrown out in Kansas City.
Kansas City General Manager Dayton Moore said that manager Ned Yost’s job was safe as the Royals have stumbled out of the gate since the break. Expectations were for them to be legitimate contenders.
“I don’t blame the players,” he said. “I don’t blame coaches. I don’t blame managers. I don’t blame ownership. I look at myself, and what I can do, and what we can do as a baseball operations department to improve our team.”
The Royals are looking for upgrades before the deadline.
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White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham entered the series against the Twins in a 4-for-59 tailspin, and manager Robin Ventura has suspected that trade rumors are affecting his play.
Veteran Paul Konerko has been trying to talk Beckham through it.
“He’s a big boy; he’ll be all right,” Konerko said. “It’s part of the gig. You have to block out a lot of things and do your job. It shows that other teams see value in him.”
• How do the Cardinals and Orioles get competitive balance picks and the Cubs do not?
• Colby Lewis and others should understand that, once in a while, a hitter is going to try to beat the shift with a bunt. Isn’t that better than giving up a home run?
• The Red Sox are the most disappointing team in the league right now. Many of the moves that worked last season have fizzled this season.
And two predictions
• New prediction for Trevor May’s Twins debut: Aug. 14.
• The Rays will hold onto ace lefthander David Price and make a run at the postseason.