MLB has told teams that outfielder Seiya Suzuki will be posted tomorrow morning, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. That will open a 30-day window for teams to negotiate with him, with the deadline being 4:00 pm CT on December 22. If he doesn’t sign a contract by then, he will return to the Hiroshima Carp, his team in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball.
It was reported weeks ago that Suzuki was going to be posted, but the official timing of the posting is significant. The Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLB and MLBPA is set to expire at 11:59 pm ET on December 1. Due to the fact that it seems unlikely a deal will come together by then, the expectation around the industry has been that December 2 will see the implementation of a lockout and transaction freeze that would last until a new agreement is reached. Commissioner Rob Manfred discussed this scenario recently and seemed to point to its likelihood.
There’s a ten-day span from Suzuki’s posting tomorrow until that potential lockout day. Joel Sherman of the New York Post confirms that a transaction freeze would indeed apply to Suzuki as well, meaning no team could sign him while the freeze is in place. It had been previously reported that MLB and NPB were discussing an agreement wherein Suzuki’s 30-day clock would be paused during the freeze. That agreement seems to have been reached, as Sherman also reports that Suzuki’s 30-day clock will not move during a lockout. That means Suzuki is going to have to decide between hastily working out a deal in just over a week or dealing with the uncertainty of waiting out this winter’s labor strife and then having around 20 days of negotiating time on the other side of that.
Suzuki came in 20th on MLBTR’s list of Top 50 Free Agents and was predicted to get a contract of $55MM over five years. The 27-year-old seems capable of stepping right into the middle of the lineup for an MLB team, along with providing a strong arm and competent right field defense. 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. For example, if Suzuki were signed for $55MM as MLBTR predicted, the signing team would have to pay the Carp $10.125MM, bringing the total bill to $65.125MM. Since the reports that he was going to be posted, Suzuki has already been connected in rumors to the Red Sox, Rangers, Giants and Mariners.