The only question now is the precise timing, because Japanese outfield star Seiya Suzuki is coming.
According to reports out of Japan, he has requested that his NPB team post him, and they have agreed. So it’s happening:
— Jason Coskrey (@JCoskrey) November 16, 2021
I would love this kind of swing for the Cubs, but there are going to be a lot of interested teams, given his age (27), success in NPB, and reports that have him the best bat to come over from Japan since Shohei Ohtani and the best outfielder since Hideki Matsui.
Once posted, MLB teams will have 30 days to come to an agreement with Suzuki, whose ultimate price tag is a little hard to predict, but whose lefty bat and take-some-risk-for-money upside ought to be mighty attractive to the Cubs. He’ll be free to negotiate with any team, but the ultimate signor will have to pay a posting fee equal to 20% of the contract’s first $25 million, 17.5% of the contract’s next $25 million, and 15% of the dollars above $50 million.
I would submit that the Cubs make as much sense as any team. They can afford to take a bigger risk on a guy like Suzuki right now, because if he doesn’t immediately pop, it’s not like he alone crushes their playoff hopes. In other words, whereas teams that are trying to make an aggressive push for 2022 might not want to risk dedicating an outfield spot to a guy transitioning to the States, the Cubs would be in a position to take that high-risk, high-upside swing. They obviously have the available cash, too, including – conveniently! – the money saved at the Trade Deadline this year that could theoretically roll right over into a posting fee.
The numbers on Suzuki in Japan:
The scouting reports will start to get beefed up in the coming weeks as a Suzuki posting process begins, but here’s a couple looks from Baseball America. This one from September:
“The righthanded hitter is in the midst of another outstanding NPB season, with high extra-base hit totals and a strong walk-to-strikeout ratio. He is a five-time NPB all-star who won the Central League batting title in 2019 and boasts a career line of .308/.399/.534 in more than 1,000 games.
Scouts see Suzuki as a potential average hitter, once he adjusts to MLB velocity, with above-average game power and raw power that grades as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. His swing is geared for damage with an uppercut bat path, as opposed to the middle-of-the-field or even inside-out hitting approaches favored by many Japanese hitters. Like Senga, Suzuki participated in the Tokyo Olympics and ranked as the No. 6 prospect at the event. He went 3-for-18 (.167) with one home run for gold medal-winning Japan.
Suzuki will stay in right field with good range and an above-average arm. He’s a fair runner who has slowed with age and won’t factor with stolen bases. Suzuki will be 27 next season and in the prime of his career.”
And this one from July, when he was identified as the best non-US prospect bat at the Olympics:
“Suzuki is a five-time NPB all-star and won the Central League batting title in 2019. While many Japanese hitters keep their hands inside and take short, direct paths to the ball, Suzuki takes powerful uppercuts more conducive to the modern MLB game. He has plus-plus raw power and the bat speed, hand-eye coordination and feel for the barrel to be an average hitter once he adjusts to major league velocity, although there is some hesitation whether he will. He is an above-average defender with an above-average arm in right field. Suzuki’s offensive and defensive abilities make him a potential starting outfielder in MLB. He will be free agent after the 2022 season.”
““He’s been the best player in Japan the last few years,” said a major league scout, who compared Suzuki to current Dodgers outfielder A.J. Pollock when Pollock was an All-Star with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Suzuki won a batting title two years ago when he batted .335. He’s smacked 25 or more homers in each of the last five years. He’s stolen as many as 25 bases in a season. He’s won four Gold Gloves. And he can throw, his fastball touching 92 mph when he pitched in high school.
“He’s a five-tool guy,” the same scout said.”