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Cubs Rumors: Japanese Star Seiya Suzuki Agrees to 5-Year, $85M Free-Agent Contract

Adam WellsMarch 16, 2022

Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

Seiya Suzuki has found a new home in Major League Baseball by agreeing to a deal with the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Suzuki landed a five-year, $85 million contract.

ESPN's Jeff Passan pointed out that's the largest pact for a Japanese position player coming to MLB and the second-largest ever behind Masahiro Tanaka's $155 million Yankees deal.

David Kaplan of NBC Sports Chicago originally reported Suzuki had agreed to a five-year, $70 million contract with the Cubs. 

Earlier in the offseason, MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported Suzuki was going to be posted for all 30 teams on Nov. 22, with a signing deadline of Dec. 22. 

The lockout, which began at 11:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 1, interrupted the process. MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball agreed to freeze Suzuki's posting window at that point. 

He has been one of the best players in NPB since making his debut in 2013. The 27-year-old has a .315/.414/.570 slash line with 182 homers and 82 stolen bases in 902 career NPB games with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. He was named to the NPB All-Star team five times in the past six seasons. 

While looking at what MLB had to offer, Suzuki spoke to Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic about the challenge of playing against the best baseball players in the world. 

"I was fascinated with how many better players there are in the States," Suzuki said. "That motivated me to play harder and get better so I could play with them someday."

R.J. Anderson of CBS Sports ranked Suzuki as the No. 15 free agent this offseason:

"In addition to posting above-average exit velocities, he's walked more than he's struck out in two of the past three years. (In 2020, the exception, he finished with one fewer walk than strikeout.) Suzuki also has a high-grade arm that should allow him to make an impact on defense. The one blemish in his game is that he's not a particularly skilled basestealer. Teams will gladly overlook that."

Suzuki has played shortstop and third base at times, but his primary position is right field. He has the arm strength to handle the position in MLB. His power and contact skills allowed him to hit a career-high 38 homers with Hiroshima in 2021. 

After turning the pages on many of the remaining players left from their 2016 World Series team last year, the Cubs appear to be loading up to make a run at the playoffs in 2022. 

Prior to the lockout, Chicago signed Marcus Stroman to anchor the starting rotation. 

Suzuki's signing affords Cubs manager David Ross more versatility with his outfield for the upcoming season. Jason Heyward remains a valuable defensive player, but his offense makes him virtually unplayable in right field (.627 OPS in 2021). 

Ian Happ is a slightly better offensive player than Heyward (.757 OPS), but he's not much of a defender in left field. 

Suzuki should help split the difference between Happ and Heyward. He's been a solid offensive player throughout his career in Japan, with the skill set to be an average defender in the corner outfield. 

There is still work for the Cubs to do to replenish their roster, but the additions of Stroman and Suzuki are promising for the short- and long-term future of the franchise. 

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