As it has for all major league free agents, the lockout has frozen the signing process for Seiya Suzuki. The Japanese star was posted by his NPB club, the Hiroshima Carp, in late November. That opened a 30-day window for Suzuki to come to an agreement with a big league team, but MLB instituted a lockout just ten days into the posting process.
MLB and NPB agreed to freeze Suzuki’s posting window for the duration of the lockout. Now six weeks into the work stoppage with essentially no progress on key issues, questions had begun to emerge about Suzuki’s future. NPB preseason camps open February 1, and there’d been some thought that he may choose to return to the Carp if MLB and the Players Association don’t make rapid progress over the coming weeks.
Suzuki’s apparently not considering that course of action, however. In an interview with Andrew Baggarly of the Athletic, Suzuki suggested he’s content to wait out an extended work stoppage. “I’m just going to wait until both sides agree,” the outfielder told Baggarly via an interpreter. “There’s no date I set on myself. In Japan, you don’t experience a lockout so it’s a first for me. At first, I was a little worried about it. But when you think about it, it’s going to end sometime soon. Just having that positive mindset that it will end sometime has allowed me to keep my head up.”
With ten days of the posting process already elapsed, Suzuki and his representatives at Wasserman will have 20 days after the finalization of a new collective bargaining agreement to hammer out a deal with a big league club. There’ll be no shortage of interest. Baggarly writes that between ten and twelve teams had reached out to Suzuki prior to the lockout. The Giants, Mariners, Rangers, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Yankees have all been linked to the right-handed hitter in past reports. Baggarly adds the Rays, Padres and Dodgers as teams expected to be in the mix.
Entering the offseason, MLBTR forecast Suzuki for a $55MM guarantee over five seasons. Evaluators with whom MLBTR spoke expressed varying opinions on his upside, but broad consensus was that he could be a well-rounded everyday right fielder in the big leagues. He’s coming off a monster showing at Japan’s top level, hitting .317/.433/.639 with 38 home runs across 533 plate appearances. That huge power production didn’t come with much swing-and-miss. He fanned in only 16.5% of his trips to the dish while walking at a robust 16.3% clip. (R.J. Anderson of CBS Sports provides some batted ball and plate discipline metrics from Suzuki’s last season in NPB).
Suzuki didn’t tip his hand regarding geographical or league preferences for his next destination. Yet he does offer some insight into his motivation for playing in the majors and on which players he models his game. Baggarly’s piece, which also includes tidbits from a few of Suzuki’s former teammates, is worth checking out in full.