On Friday, the Athletics announced they have signed catcher Kurt Suzuki to a four-year extension that immediately supersedes his current deal and runs through 2013 with a club option for 2014. With the new accord, the A's control Suzuki's rights through his arbitration years.
"Since the day Kurt got here, beyond being an outstanding player, he's been an outstanding leader and a quality guy off the field as well," said A's general manager Billy Beane. "He's the type of player you'd like to invest in."
"If you look $16 million in the face and turn it down, to me, you're crazy," Suzuki said. "It's like a weight lifted off your shoulders. Me and my wife, we've been going through this during the season and we're happy with the whole deal. We like that comfort level, knowing that security that you have is always a benefit."
For the A's, it means they keep the team's best all-around player for a reasonable price. It also means Suzuki, 26, will be able to groom and grow with the team's young pitching staff, which includes arms like Gio Gonzalez (24), Trevor Cahill (22), Vin Mazzaro (23) and Brett Anderson (22), who also signed a four-year extension with the A's earlier this season.
"That's awesome to get a core group of guys here," Anderson said. "Me and him are the first two, I guess. It'll be awesome to have him as my catcher for the next however many years."
Though he's become one of the team's biggest power threats -- his 10 home runs lead the A's this season -- Suzuki said he prides himself on defense.
"My number one thing is being able to run a pitching staff," Suzuki said. "Whether it's blocking balls, throwing guys out, receiving -- just the overall part of my game. Don't get me wrong, I love to hit. Hitting is one of my favorite things to do, but my main focus is defensively."
Suzuki's path to prominence surely isn't a typical one. He left his native Hawaii as an 18-year-old trying to walk on at perennial college powerhouse Cal State Fullerton. After earning a scholarship, Suzuki thrived in his junior year in 2004, batting .413 with 16 homers and 87 RBIs.
The A's drafted Suzuki in the second round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft and he spent two full years in the Minor Leagues before getting called up to the bigs in 2007 to study under Jason Kendall. Given Kendall's sterling reputation around the league, Suzuki said it was tough to replace the veteran backstop once the A's traded Kendall.
"He's a guy I still look up to, playing-wise," Suzuki said. "He's, to me, one of the best catchers in the game. To be able to play behind him for a month was awesome. And then when I took over, it was nerve-wracking because I wanted to be as good as he was.
"Realistically, I knew that wasn't going to happen right away. ... It was going to take some time. It was a lot of learning and a lot of failing. But at the same time, learning from your failures is the part I really had to remember."
As Suzuki's teammates learned of his new extension before Friday's series opener against the White Sox, the pitchers were especially quick to voice their pleasure.
"Suzuki is definitely the captain of this team," Gonzalez said. "He's a guy who deserves a title like that. He busts his tail, he helps out the pitching staff whichever way he can and he's always doing his homework. A catcher like that well deserves a great contract."
Alex Espinoza is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.