On November 22, Seiya Suzuki was posted by the Hiroshima Carp of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, freeing him up to negotiate with all 30 MLB teams for 30 days. However, it was reported that the recent implementation of a lockout that has led to a transaction freeze has also frozen Suzuki’s 30-day clock. That means that, at the conclusion of the lockout, he will still have around 20 days to work out a deal with an MLB team. At that point, there’s a decent chance of Suzuki winding up in the AL East, according to a report from Sean McAdam of Boston Sports Journal. “One major league source reports the Yankees, Blue Jays and Red Sox have been the most aggressive in pursuit of Suzuki,” McAdam writes.
The fact that Suzuki is garnering interest is not surprising, given his talents. 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 an MLB lineup, while also providing solid right field defence. Over nine seasons in the NPB, he has hit .315/.414/.570, with that production only growing over time.
The Red Sox make for a fairly logical landing spot, especially when considering the recent trade of Hunter Renfroe. Suzuki could potentially fill the right field vacancy left by Renfroe, with Verdugo manning left field and center field covered by some combination of Jarren Duran, Enrique Hernandez or Jackie Bradley Jr., who was part of the return in the Renfroe deal. That trade seemed to be about adding defence by subtracting offence, but the addition of Suzuki could be a way of replacing that lost offence. Kyle Schwarber, who was acquired by the Red Sox last year and would be a logical Renfroe replacement for 2022, is reportedly looking for a three-year, $60MM deal, meaning Suzuki could potentially be about half as costly on an annual basis, if MLBTR’s prediction is correct.
The fit with the Yankees is a bit less smooth, given that they have a number of outfield options already on hand. On paper, the outfield consists of Joey Gallo in left, Aaron Hicks in center and Aaron Judge in right, with designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton available for the occasional appearance on the grass and prospect Estevan Florial on hand as depth. However, they may be reluctant to rely on Hicks as an everyday option, given that he’s now 32 years old and has dealt with injury setbacks in recent years, including only playing 32 games in 2021. Although he did play 54 of the team’s 60 games in the shortened 2020 season, his last significant action over a full season was 137 games in 2018. Judge, Gallo and Suzuki all have seen limited action in center field, making it at least possible for the club to have all three across the outfield at times. However, none of them are really considered an everyday option at the position, making it something of an awkward arrangement over a full season.
Similar to the Yankees, the Blue Jays also seem to have their outfield accounted for on paper, with George Springer, Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Randal Grichuk all pencilled in. However, it was recently reported that the Jays had discussions with the Brewers about a trade centered around Grichuk and Bradley Jr., before the latter was traded to the Red Sox last week. It would appear the club is open to moving on from Grichuk and coming up with a different outfield arrangement. The Blue Jays had a potent offence in 2021 but have since lost Marcus Semien to the Rangers, perhaps motivating them to look to Suzuki as a way to replace Semien’s bat. That would still leave them with a weakened infield, however, as the departure of Semien leaves the club with Cavan Biggio and Santiago Espinal pencilled into second and third base.