According to a report out of Japan from Nachi Tomonari, the Pittsburgh Pirates are one of the teams interested in signing Seiya Suzuki, one of the top free agent outfielders available this offseason. The report also lists the Mets, Rangers, Phillies, Braves, Mariners and Rockies as teams with interest in Suzuki.
The posting process for Suzuki officially began on Monday meaning he has 30 days to work out a deal with one of the 30 Major League teams. MLBTradeRumors.com predicted Suzuki to land a five-year $55M deal.
Suzuki, 27, has been a player for the Hiroshima Carp of the NPB in Japan since he was a teenager. For his career, Suzuki has slashed .309/.402/.542 with 189 home runs and 102 stolen bases in just over 1,000 career games. His OPS has been above 1.000 in each of the last three seasons.
The right-handed hitter is regarded as a pure hitter with above average hit tools and the potential to be a 20-plus home run hitter. He draws walks at a good rate and doesn’t strikeout a ton as his walk rate has been virtually the same to his strikeout rate since he really started emerging in 2018. Defensively, Suzuki has an above-average arm and will probably play right field in the Major Leagues with the belief that he can be a solid defender. As a center fielder with Hiroshima, Suzuki won four Gold Gloves.
This would be a drastic signing for the Pirates who generally do not give out bigger contracts in free agency – the biggest being a three-year $39M deal to Francisco Liriano in 2014. The cost would be even greater when you consider the fee that goes to Suzuki’s team in Japan. With that being said, it does make some level of sense to go after a free agent like Suzuki when you consider the cost vs. the potential production.
Whether the Pirates will wind up with the services of Suzuki remains to be seen. While the team is interested in the slugger, the degree of that interest is not known. With the other handful of teams listed plus the assumption that even more will join the process, the bidding could reach a level where the Pirates shy away.
If by some chance the Pirates did land Suzuki, he would become a starter at one of the corner outfield spots and be penciled somewhere in the middle of the lineup in 2022. Giving him a contract in the four to six year range also means that he would still likely be around when Pittsburgh plans on being competitive again.
Regardless of their chances of landing him, it is refreshing to see that the Bucs are at least exploring the idea of adding a bigger-ticket free agent this offseason. Considering Suzuki’s age and projected contract as a free agent on the international market, he makes the most sense out of the bunch to pursue.
The deadline for Suzuki to reach a deal with a Major League team will be Dec. 22, though with the uncertainty of the potential CBA expiration, Suzuki and his camp could be motivated to get something done before that happens.