Even though he's not a pitcher, Kurt Suzuki may be the most important member of the Nationals' pitching staff.
Acquired from the Oakland Athletics just after the deadline in 2012, Suzuki is under contract through the end of the 2013 season, earning $6,450,000 this season according to Spotrac.com. So far, this veteran backstop has proven his worth, time and again.
For starters, the agile Suzuki stops balls in the dirt or over his head that most catchers only dream about.
His personality plays a role, too. Amanda Comak of The Washington Times explained during spring training that "Suzuki’s demeanor is a big part of why the catcher has become such an integral part of the Nationals."
Most impressive, however, has been Suzuki's work with emerging star Jordan Zimmermann. On May 1, the 27-year-old right-hander told Jon Cooper of MLB.com what it's been like to work with Suzuki:
Zuki and I have been on the same page pretty much every start. Everything he put down tonight I was thinking about throwing before he put the fingers down. So it's definitely easy when you and the catcher are on the same page.
So far, the partnership has paid dividends. Zimmermann is 9-3 with a 2.44 ERA in 14 starts, with 67 strikeouts, 14 walks, a .214 opponents' batting average and a 0.93 WHIP in 99.2 inning pitched, to go with three complete games and one shutout. As a result of his performance, Zimmermann is the front-runner to start for the National League in the All-Star Game, according to David Schoenfield of ESPN.com.
For the Nationals as a whole, Suzuki becomes even more valuable with the oft-injured Wilson Ramos back on the DL.
DECISION: Re-sign to five-year contract worth $25,000,000