The Red Sox are interested in Japanese star Seiya Suzuki
The Boston Red Sox are among the teams pressing the hardest for Japanese star Seiya Suzuki, who was posted on Nov. 21 by the Hiroshima Carp, allowing Major League Baseball teams a window to negotiate a deal with the free-agent outfielder. Those talks are currently on hold with a lockout freezing baseball operations until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is put in place but the Hot Stove is still burning.
Red Sox fans might not be familiar with Suzuki but Ryan Brasier knows him quite well after spending the 2017 season as his teammate in Hiroshima. According to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, Brasier would have zero problems with Suzuki landing in Boston. The Red Sox reliever calls his former teammate a “stud” who was by far the best hitter he played with during his time overseas.
"“The first time I saw him you could tell the ball came off his bat different,” said Brasier. “Throwing the ball from the outfield … He’s just a hell of a player.”"
The Red Sox have been rumored to be in search of another outfielder following the trade that shipped Hunter Renfroe to Milwaukee. Jackie Bradley Jr. returned to Boston in the deal but considering his abysmal performance last season, the defensive specialist shouldn’t be viewed as more than a fourth outfielder. Absorbing the remainder of his contract was the price to pay for acquiring the prospects from Milwaukee, he’s not a viable solution to replace Renfroe.
Suzuki would be an appealing replacement, which is fitting considering who Brasier says the Japanese outfielder reminds him of.
"“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.”"
Renfroe provided the Red Sox lineup with a power threat, delivering 31 homers this season, but he’s always struggled to get on base at a high clip. His .259 average and .315 OBP were a bit below league-average yet easily career-highs for him. Concern that he might regress toward his career rates is part of why the Red Sox were willing to trade him.
Suzuki is a .309 hitter with a strong .402 OBP and low 15.2 K% through nine seasons in Japan, showcasing the plate discipline that Brasier referred to. Suzuki has blasted 25+ home runs in each of the last six seasons. He set a career-high with 38 home runs for the Carp this year, suggesting he can help replace the power void created by Renfroe’s departure.
It remains to be seen how Suzuki’s production will translate to MLB but he has the tools to succeed here. He has a quick swing capable of driving the ball to left and center field. That swing is tailor made for Fenway Park. Even if he falls short of the home run totals he reached in Japan, Suzuki would rack up plenty of doubles by taking aim at the towering left field wall in this ballpark.
The four Gold Glove awards that he earned in Japan provide sufficient evidence that he can capably fill Renfroe’s shoes in right field. Brasier noted Suzuki’s strong throwing arm. Even if it’s not quite the cannon that Renfroe used to lead the league in outfield assists, Suzuki is more than capable of holding runners with the threat of his arm. He can do so without piling up the excessive errors or repeating Renfroe’s frustrating habit of getting lost on routes.
A hitter who could approach a .300 average with a healthy amount of walks, 25+ home runs and above-average defense in right field feels like a conservative projection for what Suzuki is capable of, which would be an upgrade over Renfroe.
He’ll also cost quite a bit more though, especially with several other teams showing interest. MLB Trade Rumors predicted Suzuki would receive a five-year, $55 million deal. That’s without factoring in the posting fee, which could top $10 million for the right to negotiate with him.
We’ll have to wait until after the lockout to find out if the Red Sox win the bidding war. If they do, it’s clear there is already a strong supporter of Suzuki in Boston with Brasier giving his seal of approval for the team’s pursuit of his former teammate.