The Hiroshima Carp of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball will post 27-year-old outfielder Seiya Suzuki for Major League clubs this winter, reports MLB.com’s Jon Morosi. Yahoo Japan reported two weeks ago that Suzuki was likely to be posted for big league clubs.
Suzuki’s posting will serve as a major storyline this offseason. The slugging right fielder is considered to be among the very best players in NPB at the moment and is putting the finishing touches on a monster season that has seen him slash .319/.436/.644 with 38 home runs, 26 doubles and nine steals (in 13 tries). That’s hardly a one-year fluke, either; dating back to 2018, the right-handed-hitting Suzuki has put together a combined .319/.435/.592 batting line with 121 home runs, 115 doubles, four triples and 44 stolen bases (albeit in 72 attempts) through 2167 plate appearances. Unlike many sluggers, Suzuki achieves this production without selling out for the power. Since 2018, he’s fanned in only 16.4 percent of his plate appearances — compared to a nearly identical 16 percent walk rate.
MLBTR has received a broad range of opinions when checking in with teams who’ve seen Suzuki. That’s in part due to the inherent volatility associated with signing star players from foreign professional leagues, whether it be NPB, the Korea Baseball Organization or the Cuban National Series. It’s also perhaps a reflection of the fact that scouts haven’t had the type of in-person access to Suzuki in recent years that they would have had prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The most bullish opinions we’ve gotten peg Suzuki as an everyday Major League right fielder — a solid defensive player with a strong arm and enough power to hit in the middle of a big league lineup. In an August profile of Suzuki, Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times cited a scout who called him the “best player in Japan the past few years,” and I’ve heard that sentiment echoed myself in doing background work on Suzuki. Baseball America’s Matt Eddy puts a 70-grade on Suzuki’s raw power (on the 20-80 scale), and at least one evaluator I spoke to thought he could produce 25-plus home runs with a solid batting average and strong on-base percentage. Suzuki is a four-time NPB Gold Glove winner in right field, and the expectation is that he can play average or better defense in the big leagues, even if he’s not a Gold Glover in MLB.
There’s obviously a fair bit of risk when committing significant dollars to any international star, and skeptics could point to the recent struggles from Yoshi Tsutsugo and Shogo Akiyama in their own transitions to Major League Baseball. However, Tsutsugo was seen largely as a pure power bat with minimal defensive value and preexisting strikeout issues in Japan. Sports Info Solution’s Ted Baarda took a look just today at why Suzuki is considered a much better bet to succeed in the Majors than Tsutsugo was. Akiyama, meanwhile, was five years older than Suzuki is now when he jumped to the Majors, and he didn’t stack up in the power department. Suzuki is younger and more well-rounded than both Tsutsugo and Akiyama, and we expect interest on the free-agent market to reflect that.
Once Suzuki is formally posted, Major League clubs will have 30 days to negotiate with his representatives. As a reminder, the current iteration of the NPB-MLB posting system did away with the former blind-bidding system and the $20MM-max posting fee system. Rather, the current system determines the posting/release fee owed to the Carp based on the size of contract signed by a player.
Any big league team that signs Suzuki would owe the Carp a fee equal to 20% of the contract’s first $25MM, 17.5% of the next $25MM and 15% of any dollars thereafter. That fee comes in addition to the contract itself, and any subsequent guaranteed money (e.g. salary unlocked through performance incentives or club options) also falls under this purview. If Suzuki does not agree to terms with a Major League club, he’d return to the Carp for the 2022 season. He could be posted a second time next winter and would be able to pursue Major League opportunities as an unrestricted free agent (i.e. outside the confines of the posting system) following the 2023 season.