Even in the midst of an ongoing lockout, the Red Sox still appear to be interested in Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki.
The Sox have been linked to Suzuki since he was posted by the Hiroshima Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball in November and remain locked in on the star free-agent nearly three months later, according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.
“Several teams believe the Sox are lined up to make a move on Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki when the lockout finally ends,” Abraham wrote on Saturday. “Suzuki is committed to playing in the majors, having decided not to remain with the Hiroshima Carp.”
Suzuki, 27, has spent the last nine seasons with Hiroshima. Most recently, the right-handed hitter batted .317/.433/.636 with 26 doubles, 38 home runs, 88 RBIs, 77 runs scored, nine stolen bases, 87 walks, and 88 walks over 132 games (533 plate appearances) for the Carp in 2021.
The Carp officially posted Suzuki on Nov. 22, giving MLB teams a little more than a week to negotiate with the four-time NPB All-Star before the lockout began on December 2. Since that time, Suzuki’s posting window has been paused, but it will pick up once the work stoppage ends, meaning clubs will have roughly three weeks to continue negotiating with his camp.
Despite the lengthy lockout, Suzuki — as Abraham mentioned — remains committed to playing in the major-leagues even though he could return to Japan for the 2022 season and test the free-agency waters again next winter.
Last month, Japan’s Nikkan Sports reported that Suzuki was planning to travel to the United States once the lockout is lifted to negotiate with interested teams in-person. That same report suggested that Suzuki was preparing to narrow down his list of suitors to three or four, noting that clubs with spring training facilities in Arizona may hold a geographical advantage over clubs with complexes in Florida (like the Red Sox).
A few weeks before that report came out, Suzuki himself told The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly that he has heard recruiting pitches from 10 to 12 teams and the Sox are among that group. He would not reveal his personal short list, though he did indicate that he had no preference for which league or coast he played on.
“I can’t stop thinking about which team to pick,” Suzuki said. “I’m going to be honest with you: I’m still very confused. I can’t sleep every night because a lot of the teams hit my heart. I still have to give it a lot of thought.”
Shortly before the lockout began, the Red Sox put themselves in a position where they could benefit from Suzuki’s services when they traded Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers for fellow outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and a pair of prospects.
By effectively swapping Renfroe for Bradley Jr., Boston shook up their outfield mix significantly in that they traded offensive production for defensive production. That being said, they also traded away a right-handed hitting outfielder for another left-handed hitting outfielder to join the likes of Jarren Duran and Alex Verdugo on the 40-man roster.
Since he possesses pop from the right side of the plate, Suzuki could in theory fill the void left behind by Renfroe and emerge as the Sox’ everyday right fielder. Going back to what chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said earlier this winter, the 27-year-old does fit the profile of a right-handed hitter the club might prefer to sign over a left-handed hitter.
Suzuki, who does not turn 28 until August, is about 2 1/2 years younger than Renfroe, who turned 30 last month. The former has drawn comparisons to the latter and may have an even stronger defensive profile seeing how he is a five-time recipient of the Mitsui Golden Glove Award.
Listed at 5-foot-11 and 182 pounds, Suzuki is “expected to command a contract in the range of five years and $60 million,” per Baggarly. This does not take into account the compensation Suzuki’s new team would owe Hiroshima in the form of a release fee.
As things stand now, it appears as though the Red Sox have as good a chance as any club to land Suzuki once the lockout eventually ends. With some help from former Boston closer Koji Uehara, it just might happen.
(Picture of Seiya Suzuki: Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)