Before making a name for himself with the Red Sox in 2018, veteran reliever Ryan Brasier spent the 2017 season in Japan, pitching for the Hiroshima Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball.
In the process of posting a 2.34 ERA across 45 relief appearances (50 innings pitched) for the Carp, Brasier had the opportunity to make acquaintances with one of his teammates at the time in outfielder Seiya Suzuki.
Suzuki, then just in his age-22 season, slashed .300/.389/.547 with with 28 doubles, one triple, 26 home runs, 90 RBIs, 85 runs scored, 16 stolen bases, 62 walks, and 80 strikeouts over 115 games and 512 plate appearances with Hiroshima.
“The first time I saw him you could tell the ball came off his bat different,” Brasier said of Suzuki when speaking with WEEI’s Rob Bradford recently. “Throwing the ball from the outfield. … He’s just a hell of a player.”
Brasier also described Suzuki as “a stud” and as Hiroshima’s best hitter in 2017. The right-hander is currently preparing for his fifth season with Boston, and it seems as though he would not mind being teammates with Suzuki once again.
The Red Sox have been heavily linked to Suzuki since the Japanese-born star was officially posted by Hiroshima last month. He is coming off a 2021 campaign in which he batted .317/.433/.639 with 26 doubles, 38 home runs, 88 RBIs, 77 runs scored, nine stolen bases, 88 walks, and 89 strikeouts over 134 games (538 plate appearances) for the Carp.
Under normal circumstances, Suzuki, now 27, would only have until December 22 to sign with a major-league club. However, due to the lockout, the right-handed hitter will have approximately three weeks to negotiate with teams once Major League Baseball’s work stoppage comes to a close.
After trading Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers for Jackie Bradley Jr. and a pair of prospects last week, the Red Sox suddenly find themselves in need of a right-handed hitting outfielder.
Not only does Suzuki fit that bill, but the the 5-foot-11, 182 pounder is also an exceptional defender, as evidenced by his five Mitsui Golden Glove Awards. The fact that he hits for power from the right side of the plate and is a quality right fielder has actually led some, including Brasier, to compare him to Renfroe.
“Honestly, he kind of reminds me of Renfroe,” said Brasier. “He might be a little faster, and he might have a little better plate presence. But as far as a player with size and power and defense, he reminds me of Renfroe a little bit.”
Based off the level of interest, Suzuki is clearly one of the more coveted free agents in this winter’s class. His market could heat up on the other side of this lockout, but he is currently projected by MLB Trade Rumors to sign a five-year, $55 million contract, which does not take into consideration the posting fee Hiroshima would also receive.
That said, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. remain interested in acquiring Suzuki’s services. Earlier this week, Boston Sports Journal’s Sean McAdam reported that the Sox, Blue Jays, and Yankees “have been the most aggressive in [their] pursuit of Suzuki.”
It’s likely that Brasier has read these rumors or something similar to them, because the 34-year-old hurler seems more than open to reuniting with Suzuki stateside.
“When I saw they were in talks involving Seiya, I was like, ‘Oh man!’ He’s a good, good player,” Brasier said. “I would have zero problems with him being with the Red Sox, I will tell you that.”
(Picture of Seiya Suzuki: Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)