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Close to home: Suzuki signs one-year deal with Angels

Kurt Suzuki will play his 15th Major League Baseball season with the Los Angeles Angels. It will be the fifth MLB organization the Baldwin High School graduate has played for, joining the Oakland Athletics, Washington Nationals, Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves. — AP file photo

In his 15th Major League Baseball season, Kurt Suzuki will finally get to play for the home team.

The 2001 Baldwin High School graduate confirmed to The Maui News on Friday that he will play for the Los Angeles Angels in 2021 on a one-year deal worth $1.5 million.

“It was a huge factor in the decision-making,” Suzuki said from his home that is a 30- to 45-minute drive from Angel Stadium, depending on traffic. “We had another offer that was for a better amount of money, but I think at this time in my career taking precedent was being able to stay home. You don’t have to move the family, the kids have their friends, they get to spend the summer at home.”

Suzuki and Albert Pujols share the same agent and have grown close over the years, but have never played together. Pujols made a surprise appearance at Suzuki’s annual youth clinic on Maui in 2019.

“To be able to play with a first-ballot Hall of Famer in Albert and a future potential first-ballot Hall of Famer in Mike Trout, it was a no-brainer,” Suzuki said.

It will be the fifth MLB organization he has played for, joining the Oakland Athletics, Washington Nationals, Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves.

The well-travelled veteran had two stints with Washington — he won the World Series with the Nationals in 2019 — and two stints with Oakland, which originally drafted him in 2004 in the second round out of Cal State Fullerton.

After five weeks of contact, “in the last week is when it really picked up and we had an offer and were going back and forth,” Suzuki said. “We ended up where we were and it just felt like the right choice, what we had to do for my family and I.”

Suzuki, 37, knows he is heading into a back-up gig for the first time in his career. He has thrived at the plate since moving into a catcher platoon plan for the last four seasons, since he moved to Atlanta in 2017.

“I’ve said ‘this is my last year’ multiple times now and it just feels like it never is, which is fine, but I kind of take it like every year is my last at this point in my career,” Suzuki said. “If an opportunity arises that I think is OK for my family like being able to live at home in my own house and sleep in my own bed, then we definitely would have to consider it.”

Suzuki said he took his physical with the Angels on Friday and the drive to the stadium was about 30 minutes, “no traffic. With a normal day it would probably be closer to 40, 45 minutes, but I mean that’s nothing really.”

Suzuki hit .270 with eight doubles, two home runs and 17 RBIs in 36 games for the Nationals in 2020 during the COVID-shortened 60-game season.

“I kind of want to go out with a normal setting,” Suzuki said. “I didn’t want COVID to be my last year. At the same time, we don’t really know firmly, concrete how this is going to play out, but I feel like we’re on the right track and everything is kind of going in the right direction. Trying to get everything back to normal during the season, 162 games and whatnot, so we’ll see. Definitely wanted to play a full season to get back to kind of some normalcy. If it is my last year, hope to end on a normal season.”

Said Suzuki: “I feel great, body feels good, I feel like I can still compete at the highest level and really be productive. Obviously, probably not for 162 games or 140 games that I used to play, but whenever my opportunity arises then I feel like it’s going to be good for sure.

“I’m going to be 38 years old at the end of the season, I’m not getting any younger … but I feel like if the need arises and I am called on to play more games than that, then I feel like I can do it.”

The move put a smile on the face of 7-year-old Kai Suzuki, who will reunite with Anthony Rendon, who signed with the Angels after the 2019 season. In Washington, Kai Suzuki and Rendon developed a close friendship.

“My middle one, Kai, he’s super excited because I mean obviously I played with Anthony (Rendon) in DC and (Kai) was able to get some quality time with Anthony, so he’s pretty excited about that,” Suzuki said. “They’re buds. He was saying, ‘I get to be with Anthony,’ so he’s pretty excited.”

That goes for the entire Suzuki family.

“They’re really excited, I know my wife’s excited that we don’t have to move,” Suzuki said. “It’s kind of a nice feeling because right now we’d probably be looking at flights, looking at places to stay and rent and all that kind of stuff, shipping things and all that.

“Now, to not have to do all that is a pretty good feeling. … Definitely a blessing to be able to get this opportunity. I’m definitely looking forward to it and I know my family is as well.”

* Robert  Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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BASEBALL TRANSACTIONS

American League

BALTIMORE ORIOLES–Agreed to terms with INFs Maikol Hernandez, Grabiel Salazar, Carlos Rodriguez Eruviel Castillo, Victor Celedonio, Anderson De La Santos and Angel Tejada and INF/OF Trey Mancini, OFs Wilmer Feliciano, Hector Jimenez, Teudis Cortorreal and Angel Pena and LHPs Deivy Cruz and Elvis Polanco and Cs Yasmil Bucce, Aneudis Mordan and Samuel Basallo on one-year minor league contracts.

BOSTON RED SOX–Agreed to terms with 3B Rafael Devers on a one-year contract.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX–Agreed to terms with RHP Liam Hendricks on a four-year contract. Agreed to terms with RHPs Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez on one-year contracts. Agreed to terms with OF Yoelqui Cespedes.

DETROIT TIGERS–Agreed to terms with INF Cristian Santana, SS Abel Bastidas and RHP Joel Baez on one-year minor league contracts.

HOUSTON ASTROS–Agreed to terms with C Carlos Arcila, RHPs Freilyn De Perna, Darwin Rosario, Juan Soto, Miguel Ullola and Elvin Villega, OFs Richel Del Rosario, Brayan Nolasco and Pedro Leon on one-year minor league contracts. Agreed to term with RHP Pedro Baez on a two-year contract. Agreed to terms with RHP Lance McCullers and INF Aledmys Diaz on one-year contracts.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS–Agreed to terms with C Kurt Suzuki, C Eiver Betancourt, RHP Darlin Francia, RHP Fernando Guanare, SS Denzer Guzman, C Edwin Hidalgo, SS Klevier Lopez and LHP Luis Vilora.

NEW YORK YANKEES–Agreed to terms with OF Aaron Judge, OF Clint Frazier, RHP Chad Green, LHP Jordan Montgomery, C Gary Sanchez, INF Gleyber Torres, INF Gio Urshela and INF Luke Voit on one-year contracts.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS–Agreed to terms with LHPs Sullivan Ribeiro de Almeida and Sean Manaea, OFs Mark Canha, Pedro Pineda, Angel Arvalo and Beyker Martinez, INFs German Ortiz, Matt Chapman, Dayker Baldallo, Ray Garrett and Anderson Machado, RHPs Maosis Hernandez, Jesus Perdigon and Jimmy Rojas, Cs Javier Pariguan, Chris Bassitt, Franke Montas and Lou Trivino on one-year minor league contracts.

SEATTLE MARINERS–Agreed to terms with INF J.P. Crawford, C Tom Murphy and RHP Rafael Montero to one-year contracts.

TEXAS RANGERS–Agreed to terms with OF Joey Gallo and INF Isiah Kiner-Falefa on one-year contracts.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS–Agreed to terms with OF Teoscar Hernandez and RHP Ross Stripling on one-year contracts. Released RHP Walker Lockett to allow him to sign with Doosan Bears (KBO)

National League

CHICAGO CUBS–Agreed to terms with 3B Kris Bryant, SS Javier Baez and C Wilson Contreras on one-year contracts.

COLORADO ROCKIES–Agreed to terms with RHPs Mychal Givens, Carlos Estévez, Robert Stephenson and Jon Gray, LHP Kyle Freeland, INF Ryan McMahon and OF Raimel Tapia to one-year contracts.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS–Agreed to terms with RHPs Dailoui Abad, Miguel Bastardo, Brian Diaz, Jhonny Jimenez, Maximo Martinez, Kelvin Ramirez, Christian Romero, Pedro Santillan, Missael Soto and Michael Vilchez, OFs Juan Alonso and Issac Barreto, Cs Carlos Avila, Jesus Galiz and Thayron Liranzo, INFs Elio Campos, Wilman Diaz and Luis Guerra and LHPs Jorge Carpintero and Sebstian Jimenez on one-year minor league contracts.

MIAMI MARLINS–Agreed to terms with LHPs Luis Baldris and Jesus Leon, INFs Yiddi Cappe, Reiner Chourio and Jesus Hernandez, OFs Kevin Guerrero, Oscar Colina, Cs Edward Duran and Ronald Hernandez and RHPs Gerardo Hernandez and Jhoniel Serrano on one-year minor league contracts.

NEW YORK METS–Agreedto terms with RHP Edwin Diaz, RHP Miguel Castro, RHP Robert Gsellman and RHP Seth Lugo, OF Brandon Nimmo, INF Francisco Lindor, OF Michael Conforto and 1B/OF Dominic Smith to one-year contracts.

PHILADELPHIA FHILLIES–Agreed to terms with 1B Rhys Hoskins, RHP Vince Velasquez and LHP Jose Alvarado on one-year contracts.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES–Agreed to terms with OF Ruben Bizcaya, LHP Antwone Kelly, RHPs Jose Garces, Jesus Clode, Darlin Diaz, Luigi Hernandez and Andres Sierra, OFs Rodolfo de la Cruz, Shalin Polanco, Eddy Rodriguez and Esmerlyn Valdez, INFs Rubel Lebron, Wesley Zapata and John Zorilla, C Miguel Sosa on one-year minor league contracts. Agreed to terms with LHP Steven Brault, RHPs Kyle Crick, Joe Musgrove, Richard Rodriguez and Chad Kuhl, Chris Stratton, INFs Adam Frazier and Collin Moran and C Jacob Stallings on one-year contracts. Agreed to terms with INF Wilmer Difo on a one-year contracts.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS–Agreed to terms with OF Harrison Bader, P Jordan Hicks and Alex Reyes on one-year contracts. Agreed to terms with INFs Adari Grant, Elias Reynoao, Samil De La Rosa, Anyelo Encarnacion, Yancel Guerrero and Marcelo Perez, C Leonardo Bernal, OFs Carlos Carmona, Christian Avendano, Robelin Lopez, Romtres Cabrera and Jose Suarez and RHPs Esteban Contreras, Carlos De La Cruz and Samuel Fabian on one-year minor league contracts.

SAN DIEGO PADRES–Named Ted Leitner team ambassador and Jesse Angler play-by-play broadcaster.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS–Agreed to terms with C Angel Polo, RHPs Anderson Azor, Jan Cabraballo and Angel Sanchez, LHP Pavel Duarte, SSs Ramon Peralta and Brandy Rosario, OFs Jediael Maduro, Eliam Sandoval, Carlos Rosario, Saul Bautista and Juanel Urena, LHP Ricardo Estrada, OFs Mauricia Pierre, Randy Arrieta, Brian Guzman, Fabio Viladiego and Diego Villegas, INFs Jose Astudillo, Jhosward Camacho, Gustavo Cordozo, Derwin Laya, Samuel Rodriguez and Diego Valasquez, Cs Javier Castillo, Brayan Ferrer, Diego Gonzalez and Eduardo Montero, RHPs Samir Chires, Gerelmi Maldonado, Carlos Rangel and Jose Rojas, LHP Daniel Espinoza on one-year minor league contracts.

TAMPA BAY RAYS–Agreed to terms with RHP Yonny Chirinos, RHP Tyler Glasnow, OF Manuel Margot and INF Joey Wendle. Agreed to terms with SS Gabriel Arias, SS Luis Ariza, SS Carlos Colmenarez, RHP Sebastian Javier, RHP Humberto Jimenez, SS Jose Perez, OF Jhonny Piron, SS Jesus Quevedo, SS Nathanael Rodriguez and LHP Kikito Severino on minor league contracts.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS–Agreed to terms with INFs Armando Cruz and Winder Diaz, Doimil Perez and OFs Jean Estrada, Cristian Batista and Enmanuel Ramirez, LHP Gabriel Agostini, RHPs Jefrem Leon, Gustavo Rivas and Genderson Zapata on one-year minor league contracts.

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