Seiya Suzuki’s posting window has been paused with the MLB lockout ongoing, but whenever the current transaction freeze is lifted, the star Hiroshima Carp outfielder will have just shy of three weeks to field interest from Major League teams. Reports have already indicated that a trio of AL East clubs — Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays — are among the most interested parties, but Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News recently wrote that the Rangers like Suzuki as well.
As Brad Lefton of the New York Times wrote a couple weeks back, agent Joel Wolfe told reporters in Japan in late November that at least eight teams had expressed serious interest and that there had already been some virtual meetings conducted. In-person meetings with interested parties figure follow, post-lockout.
The extent of Texas’ interest in the 27-year-old slugger isn’t clear, though he’s an obvious on-paper fit. Adolis Garcia and offseason signee Kole Calhoun figure to be locked into a pair of outfield spots, but there’s a corner-outfield spot still largely up for grabs. At present, any of Willie Calhoun, Nick Solak, Leody Taveras or Eli White could vie for time there, but Suzuki would be a higher-profile offensive upgrade following what has already been a frenzied offseason of additions from president of baseball operations Jon Daniels and GM Chris Young.
For those unfamiliar, Suzuki has been one of Japan’s most-productive hitters for several years now and is considered among the top talents in the country. Suzuki posted a mammoth .317/.433/.636 batting line with 38 home runs, 26 doubles and nine steals in 533 plate appearances this past season in NPB, all while walking 87 times against 88 strikeouts (16.3% vs. 16.5%). This was far from a one-year fluke; dating back to 2018, Suzuki’s right-handed bat has produced a dominant .319/.435/.592 slash line with 121 home runs, 115 doubles and four triples in 2179 plate appearances.
Suzuki is younger than recent NPB signees such as Shogo Akiyama and Yoshi Tsutsugo were when they made the transition to North American ball, and he’s considerably more highly regarded than both. While multiple team evaluators told MLBTR prior to his posting that Suzuki won’t be a regular option in center, he’s still seen as an above-average option in right field — an opinion that was only reinforced last week when Suzuki won his fifth NPB Gold Glove Award for his defense in right. Even if he doesn’t stack up as an elite outfielder, he ought to more than hold his own as better-than-average option in either left or right for interested teams.
The question for the Rangers at this point is just how much more the team has left in the tank. The half-billion dollars invested in Corey Seager and Marcus Semien grabbed the majority of headlines, but the Rangers also spent another $61.2MM combined on Jon Gray and the aforementioned Kole Calhoun. That said, even with all those splashes, the Rangers’ projected 2022 payroll is currently about $127MM — well shy of 2017’s record $165MM Opening Day payroll. Another outfielder would certainly be prudent, but Texas also still has multiple holes in the rotation and the bullpen.
Grant suggests that the to-date flurry of activity makes it unlikely the Rangers will spend to the levels necessary to add someone such as Kyle Schwarber or Nick Castellanos, either of whom would figure to command considerably heavier annual salaries than Suzuki (even if Suzuki may receive a larger number of years, based on his age). Still, if the plan is to focus more resources on pitching at this point, there’s no shortage of lower-cost corner options (e.g. Joc Pederson, Tommy Pham, Eddie Rosario) — and the team, of course, could just stay in-house for outfield needs.