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Kurt Suzuki, Nationals finalize to $10M, 2-year deal

November 20, 2018
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FILE - In this Oct. 7, 2018, file photo, Atlanta Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki celebrates after Game 3 of baseball's National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, in Atlanta. Catcher Kurt Suzuki is heading back to the Washington Nationals after agreeing to a $10 million, two-year contract, a deal pending a successful physical. The deal was disclosed to The Associated Press on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018, by a person familiar with the agreement who spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract was not yet official. (AP Photo/John Amis, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Even after his last trip to free agency dragged into January, Kurt Suzuki wanted to go the open market again.

This time, the catcher found a home much quicker.

Suzuki on Tuesday finalized a $10 million, two-year contract to return to the Washington Nationals. The 35-year-old gets $4 million next year and $6 million in 2020, up from $3.5 million last season, his second with the Atlanta Braves.

Suzuki is the first player of the 164 who hit free agency after the World Series to switch teams and the ninth with a finalized agreement.

“Obviously the last time I went to free agency wasn’t as fun,” Suzuki said during a conference call. “It’s a lot nicer, more peace of mind knowing where you’re going to be, especially for the next two years. I’m 35 years old. I feel like I’ve been getting better as a player. I feel like I have a lot to offer for younger players, as well. I just try to go with it.”

He hit .271 with 12 homers and 50 RBIs in 2018 as Atlanta won the NL East ahead of the second-place Nationals. General manager Mike Rizzo announced the finalized agreement Tuesday after Suzuki passed a physical.

Suzuki played for Washington in 2012 and 2013, part of a 12-year major league career in which he has been with four clubs and batted .258 with 114 home runs and 619 RBIs.

“The last two years at age 33 and 34 kind of had like a renaissance I guess,” Suzuki said. “I really haven’t changed much. I go out there and I don’t really think about launch angles or all these kind of analytical things. I go out there and I just try to do some damage, and whenever they throw me a pitch that I think I can do damage with, I swing.”

He made the AL All-Star team in 2014 while with the Minnesota Twins.

A right-handed hitter, Suzuki could wind up as part of a platoon at catcher for the Nationals, who have been in the market for help at that position after Matt Wieters batted under .240 in each of the past two seasons there.

“Whether I’m a guy that catches 120 games or 90 games or whatever they want me to do, I just told (Rizzo) I’d be ready to do whatever you want,” Suzuki said.

Washington is coming off an 82-80 season, its first under manager Dave Martinez, following two consecutive division titles and first-round playoff exits. Suzuki, who turned down a contract offer from Atlanta to become a free agent, said it was a “good gamble” based on the deal he got from Washington, a team he called a perennial World Series contender.

“We’ve got everything that it takes to win a World Series,” Suzuki said. “I love our chances for this year. I think we’ve got all the talent and all the tools to go out there and win.”

So far, Washington’s offseason moves have centered on the bullpen, including exercising up closer Sean Doolittle’s option and signing former St. Louis Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

The Nationals are also expected to seek help for their starting rotation as well as a new second baseman.

The biggest question of all that looms over the next few months, of course, is what will happen with outfielder Bryce Harper, the 2015 NL MVP who is a free agent.

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AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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