Tomase: The case for Red Sox to bet big on Japan’s Seiya Suzuki originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
For teams that identify the right players, Japanese stars almost always end up being bargains.
Author’s Note: Each day this week, we’ll advocate for the Red Sox to consider one of the top remaining free agents in a feature called, “Making the Case.” Today’s final installment: Seiya Suzuki. Previously, we dissected Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman, Clayton Kershaw, and Kyle Schwarber.
The most extreme example is two-way Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani. Because he arrived at age 23, Ohtani could only receive a signing bonus of $3.5 million. The defending MVP won’t become a free agent until 2024. He’s a steal.
He’s not alone. Yu Darvish signed a six-year, $60 million deal with the Rangers in 2012 and immediately made three straight All-Star teams, finishing second in the 2013 Cy Young Award voting. Ichiro Suzuki’s three-year, $14 million contract with the Mariners yielded a Rookie of the Year and MVP Award in 2001. Hideki Matsui didn’t miss a game in his first three seasons with the Yankees after signing for three years and $21 million, making a pair of All-Star teams and driving in 100 runs each season.
Assessing the Red Sox outfield for 2022 and beyond
Plenty of misses exist, too, but Seiya Suzuki isn’t shaping up to be one of them.
The right-handed slugger finds himself in limbo while awaiting a new collective bargaining agreement. He was at the start of his 30-day posting window when the owners instituted a lockout in early December, and will have 20 days to sign once an agreement is reached.
That could put him in the crosshairs of the Red Sox, who need outfield help after trading right fielder Hunter Renfroe to the Padres. They could turn to Suzuki for reasonable money with the possibility of high upside. Players of Suzuki’s caliber don’t leave Japan often, so his availability represents an opportunity for the Red Sox to add an impact talent.
The 27-year-old star of Japan’s top league is a career .315 hitter with three Gold Gloves and five All-Star appearances. He’s coming off a 38-homer season for the Hiroshima Carp and seems well-positioned to handle the velocity jump that comes with leaving Nippon Professional Baseball for the big leagues.
Given his age and athleticism … Suzuki might be a higher-upside play than even Schwarber. If he signs for four years, that will take him through the heart of his prime, and that’s a potentially massive win for the Red Sox.
At 5-foot-11 and 182 pounds, the right-handed batter possesses a quick bat and big power. Signing him won’t break the bank, especially since the posting fee paid to Hiroshima will be computed on a sliding scale based on his earnings, starting with 20 percent of his first $25 million, 17.5 percent of his next $25 million, and 15 percent of anything else.
If he signs for the four years and $40 million projected by Fangraphs, for instance, Hiroshima would collect a posting fee of $7.63 million.
Given his age and athleticism — he projects to play above-average defense in right field — Suzuki might be a higher-upside play than even Schwarber. If he signs for four years, that will take him through the heart of his prime, and that’s a potentially massive win for the Red Sox.