Twins land veteran catcher in Suzuki

His offense is not what it once was, but he remains steady behind the plate.

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Minnesota Twins' Drew Butera, right, scores as Oakland Athletics catcher Kurt Suzuki makes a late tag during the eighth inning of a baseball game Friday, July 29, 2011, in Oakland, Calif.

Photo: Ben Margot, Associated Press - Ap

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The Twins’ long offseason search for a veteran catcher ended Friday when they reached agreement with Kurt Suzuki on a one-year deal worth $2.75 million, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations. The deal is pending a physical.

Suzuki, 30, has spent most of his career with Oakland but split time between the Athletics and Nationals last season, batting .232 with five homers and 32 RBI in 94 games. He was traded to Washington in August 2012 and dealt back to Oakland this past August. He made $6.4 million last season.

His best season was 2009, when he hit .274 with 15 homers and 88 RBI in 147 games with the A’s. But he has hit only .237 over the four seasons since then.

Word of the Twins’ interest in Suzuki began last week at the winter meetings, as they struck out in their attempts to sign other catchers.

They offered A.J. Pierzynski a two-year contract, but the former Twins All-Star opted to sign with the champion Red Sox for one year. They offered Jarrod Saltalamacchia a two-year deal, but he received a three-year deal from the Marlins.

The need for catching grew even more pressing when they traded Ryan Doumit on Wednesday to the Braves for pitching prospect Sean Gilmartin.

By landing Suzuki, the Twins now have a veteran to help out with promising rookie Josmil Pinto, who batted .342 in a 21-game debut this past September. The Twins love the pop in Pinto’s bat, but he is raw defensively and needs to work on calling games and handing a pitching staff. That’s where Suzuki, who will be in pregame meetings with Pinto all season, comes in.

Suzuki does not have a powerful arm. The Hawaii native threw out 28 percent of runners trying to steal last season and is at 27 percent for his career. But he calls a solid game, as pitchers had an ERA of 3.92 with him behind the plate in 2013. That would have been eighth-best in baseball if he had qualified to be among league leaders. For his career, pitchers have a 3.88 ERA with him behind the plate.

Twins officials like the fact that Pinto won’t have to look far to find a mentor in the clubhouse. In addition to Suzuki, Joe Mauer will available to help, and bench coach Terry Steinbach is another former All-Star catcher.

“We like Pinto, but it would be nice to get some protection,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said Wednesday, before the deal was struck.

The Twins do not comment on free-agent signings until the deal is official, which is expected to happen next week. They have one spot open on their 40-man roster, and that is expected to go to Mike Pelfrey when his two-year, $11 million contract is finalized. That means the Twins will have to make room on the roster for Suzuki.

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