The Giants’ interest in outfielder Seiya Suzuki was first noted back in November, and San Francisco has continued to be linked to the longtime Hiroshima Carp slugger. As reported by Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic, the Giants were one of the teams who conducted video interviews with Suzuki (through Zoom) prior to the start of the lockout.
The 27-year-old Suzuki has a long list of known suitors, as the Rangers, Yankees, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Mariners have all reportedly shown interest in his services. Texas has been one of the offseason’s biggest spenders and the Blue Jays (with Kevin Gausman) and Mariners (with Robbie Ray) have also made some aggressive signings. New York and Boston have stayed relatively quiet, perhaps in anticipation of some bigger spending after the lockout once the details of the new CBA are finalized.
That same tactic could be the Giants’ modus operandi for figuring out how to navigate the post-lockout world. It’s not as if San Francisco hasn’t been making moves this winter — the club retained Brandon Belt via the qualifying offer, re-signed both Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood, and further augmented the rotation by signing Alex Cobb. None of these signings broke the bank, however, and the Giants have only around $126MM committed to their 2022 payroll to date.
This doesn’t mean that the Giants will necessarily use their available payroll space on any huge signings, given the team’s reported reluctance to sign players to nine-figure deals. However, there is still plenty of talent available for well less than a $100MM deal, and Suzuki stands out as one of the more intriguing options available for reasons beyond just cost. MLBTR projected Suzuki for a five-year, $55MM pact, though his market is rather more difficult to project than most free agents, given his lack of MLB experience and now the unusual circumstances over his posting situation.
Like so much else in the baseball world, Suzuki’s free agency has been put on hold by the lockout. The Carp officially posted Suzuki on November 22, so he got roughly ten days into the 30-day posting period before the lockout began. While it’s safe to assume that the Giants and other teams laid some initial groundwork in their online meetings, the 20 days remaining doesn’t leave much margin for error for Suzuki and his reps to find an acceptable contract.
Given the uncertainty surrounding labor talks between the owners and players, it wouldn’t be entirely shocking to see Suzuki opt to return to Nippon Professional Baseball for another season if the lockout keeps dragging on. As noted by The New York Times’ Brad Lefton, February 1 could serve as something of a deadline for Suzuki, since Japanese teams begin their Spring Training on that date. It is extremely rare for Japanese players to miss any of their training camps for reasons other than injury, so Suzuki could need to decide between NPB or MLB by late January.
From an on-field perspective, there is plenty of logic in a Suzuki/Giants pairing. He could immediately step into regular duty as an everyday right fielder, providing San Francisco’s lineup (and the outfield mix in particular) with a needed right-handed bat. Suzuki has played only as an outfielder for the last seven seasons but he has some history as a third baseman, first baseman, and shortstop, so there’s even a small chance the Giants could experiment with using him around the diamond, as they have so many other versatile players on the roster. Suzuki only turned 27 last August, so he should have plenty of prime years left to help a Giants team that now has designs on winning a World Series as early as next season.