Seiya Suzuki will make his MLB debut with the Cubs next season after signing a five-year, $85 million dollar contract on Wednesday. The announcement brings an end to months of speculation about where the 27-year-old outfielder would land.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic had the initial report:
Seiya Suzuki in agreement with Cubs, pending physical, source tells @TheAthletic. Five years, $85M.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 16, 2022
Suzuki has spent his entire playing career to this point with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball, the highest level of baseball in Japan. The hype around Suzuki began to build as soon as he was posted by Hiroshima. It only takes a glance at his stats to see why.
In nine seasons in the NPB, Suzuki slashed .315/.414/.570 with 182 HRs. He ended last season with a line of .317/.433/.639 and 38 HR in 132 games. Per this deep dive from Tom Mussa of Prospects Live, he’s also known for his discipline at the plate. He walks as often as he strikes out.
In addition to bringing a potent contact-power combo with his hitting, Suzuki is also a plus player defensively. He boasts multiple Gold Gloves and a cannon of an arm:
Seiya Suzuki showing off the arm! Another assist for Suzuki on the year as he guns down the runner at home! pic.twitter.com/uTmJM7EdZz
— Tom Mussa v2 (@tom_mussa_v2) August 14, 2021
While several other NPB transplants such as Yoshi Tsutsugo of the Pirates and Shogo Akiyama of the Reds have struggled to make an impact in the MLB, there’s good reason to believe Suzuki possesses the tools he needs to succeed.
In January, CBS Sports shared an analysis of ball-tracking data from Suzuki’s time in the NPB that yielded comparisons to the likes of Bryce Harper, Pete Alonso, Austin Riley, and Joc Pederson. The analysis stated, “Suzuki’s similar hitters had a median OPS+ of 109 last season, suggesting he’s in the company of mostly above-average bats.”
The Cubs are fully bought into the belief that Suzuki will make a huge transition. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, they’ve just finalized the largest contract ever for a Japanese position player coming to MLB:
OF Seiya Suzuki's deal with the Cubs is massive: five years, $85 million, as @Ken_Rosenthal reported. It's the highest number for a Japanese position player coming to Major League Baseball and the second largest behind Masahiro Tanaka's $155 million contract with the Yankees.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 16, 2022
Suzuki joins a Cubs team looking to rebound after it finished 71-91 and fourth in the NL Central last year. His signing, along with agreements with other veteran free agents like Marcus Stroman, Andrelton Simmons, David Robertson, and Chris Martin, indicates a laudable desire to compete in the short term while building a foundation for long-term success as well.