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Suzuki finds his stroke in Nationals lineup

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Suzuki finds his stroke in Nationals lineup

NEW YORK -- Davey Johnson has been a fan of Kurt Suzuki's offensive prowess since he first managed the catcher during a 2008 Olympic qualifying tournament in Cuba. So the Nationals skipper isn't surprised at all by what he's seen from Suzuki over the last two weeks.

"He's swinging the bat like he did there," Johnson said. "He's short to the ball, and he's got some pop. And everybody knows he's a great defender. So he just fits right in. Everybody in the lineup is a threat right now."

Indeed, Suzuki's recent surge at the plate completes the Nationals' lineup and gives Johnson a power threat in every starting spot. Collectively, his club has hit 33 homers over its last 13 games (entering tonight's contest against the Mets) and Suzuki has been a major contributor.

After struggling to find his swing in the immediate aftermath of his Aug. 3 trade from Oakland -- he hit .192 with a paltry .476 OPS in his first 14 games with the Nationals -- Suzuki has hit .333 with four homers and a 1.089 OPS over his last 12 games.

The 28-year-old catcher isn't trying to analyze too much what's made this reversal of fortune possible.

"It's getting a good pitch to hit and trying to put a good swing on it and trying not to do too much," he said after homering during last night's win over New York. "Baseball is weird. Sometimes you run into them, and sometimes you don't."

Truth be told, Suzuki has been working extensively with hitting coach Rick Eckstein on a shorter, more-compact swing, the result of which is starting to produce tangible results.

Suzuki's recent hot streak coincides with the Nationals' overall offensive surge. All of a sudden, a lineup that often struggled during the season's first half to score three or four runs a night is now averaging 6.8 runs (and 2.5 homers) per night.

"From what I've been seeing so far since I've been here, the talent is unbelievable," Suzuki said. "So it doesn't surprise me one bit."

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Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper isn't one to keep his opinions to himself. The Nationals slugger is outspoken about what he wants, whether that's to "Make Baseball Fun Again" or to make at least $400 million on his next contract

On Wednesday, he gave his take on how the Nats should be investing their money this summer. Here's Harper responding to a tweet from ESPN's Jim Bowden.

Harper's message: Players over everything else. Sorry, gift shop. 

It's plain to see where the 2015 NL MVP is going with this. Obviously, he wants as much talent around him as possible for a chance to win the World Series. 

Matt Wieters, a four-time All-Star catcher, and Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer, could be significant additions to Washington's roster. 

Harper is set to become a free agent in 2018, at which point an organization like the New York Yankees will be prepared to offer him both a massive salary and a massive investment in the players around him.

The slugger probably hopes his current team will try to surround him with winning pieces in an effort to keep him. But if a report about the Nationals' reaction to his contract demands proves accurate, they may have another agenda. 

There's Harper drama around the Nationals? Just a regular Wednesday here in Washington.

MORE NATIONALS: Nationals avoid arbitration with Harper, three others

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Nationals avoid arbitration, reach deal with Bryce Harper and three others

Nationals avoid arbitration, reach deal with Bryce Harper and three others

The Washington Nationals avoided arbitration and agreed to one-year deals today with Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Tanner Roark and newly acquired catcher Derek Norris.

If team's and players didn't agree to contracts by today's 1 p.m. ET deadline, an independent arbitrator will rule on the contract at a later date and decide how much the player will play for in 2017. 

Harper and the Nationals agreed to a $13.625 million deal, which was significantly more than the $9.3 million contract that was projected by MLB Trade Rumors. Last season, coming off his 2015 MVP campaign, Harper made $5 million. The 24-year-old will be a free agent after the 2018 season. 

Harper is coming off a disappointing season by his standards, in which he hit just .243 with 24 homers, which was way down from his total of 42 dingers in 2015. 

According to multiple reports, Rendon signed for $5.8 million, Roark signed for $4.315 million and Norris' deal was for $4.2 million.

Roark made just $543,400 last season, which he vastly out-performed. Roark was one of the most consistent pitchers in the National League last year as he won 16 games and posted a 2.83 ERA in 210 innings of work. 

With today's signings, all of the Nationals' arbitration-eligible players are under contract for 2017. 

Related: Tanner Roark to replace Max Scherzer on World Baseball Classic roster