The cases for the Red Sox to sign Kyle Schwarber or Seiya Suzuki

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 10: Kyle Schwarber #18 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after tossing the ball to first base during the fourth inning of game three of the 2021 American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park on October 10, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 10: Kyle Schwarber #18 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after tossing the ball to first base during the fourth inning of game three of the 2021 American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park on October 10, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

Red Sox may have to decide between Seiya Suzuki and Kyle Schwarber

The Boston Red Sox prior to the lockout made several moves to improve their roster. They signed Rich Hill and Michael Wacha to improve the starting rotation. And improved the team’s defense and farm system by trading Hunter Renfroe to the Milwaukee Brewers for old friend Jackie Bradley Jr. and prospects Alex Binelas and David Hamilton. However, there are still holes on this team that will have to be filled when the lockout ends.

They are going to need to add one or two late-inning relievers and unless they want Jackie Bradley Jr. and his .497 OPS penciled into the starting lineup every night they are going to have to add another outfielder as well. The two most likely candidates in free agency to meet this need are Kyle Schwarber and Seiya Suzuki.

While the Red Sox would most benefit from signing both of these players and have the resources and roster space to do so, it seems at the current moment that that will not be the case. So today I will be making several arguments for why either candidate would be a better fit than the other.

One argument for why Seiya Suzuki would be a better fit for the Red Sox over Kyle Schwarber is that Suzuki bats right-handed while Schwarber bats left-handed. During the press conference where the Red Sox announced the Renfroe trade, Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom when asked what future moves the team might make said the team was likely to add late-inning relievers and a right-handed hitting outfielder.

Needless to say of the free-agent outfielders out there Suzuki is the best option who checks off this box. And it makes sense why the Red Sox would want to add a right-handed hitting outfielder to their roster as two of the three outfielders, not including J.D. Martinez, who the Red Sox will try to avoid playing in the outfield like the plague, currently on their roster are left-handed.

So adding Suzuki would bring balance to the Red Sox outfield. This also would give JBJ a chance to get regular ABs as a platoon option with Suzuki if he finds a way to turn it around at the plate.

One argument for why Schwarber would be a better fit for the Red Sox over Seiya is that the team would know what they are getting. Suzuki’s stats in Japan are very impressive. In his nine seasons in the NPB, he has hit 189 HRs and has hit for a slash line of .309/.402/.541. But it is not a guarantee that those numbers will translate over to the states. That’s the risk you take when you sign an international free agent.

He could be the next Yoenis Cespedes, Jorge Soler, or Shohei Ohtani or he could be the next Rusney Castillo. And unlike with Castillo, if Suzuki does turn out to be a bust the Red Sox won’t be able to avoid having his salary count against the CBT by simply removing him from the 40 man roster.

So this begs the question if the Red Sox wants to risk paying Suzuki the $55 million he is projected to get from MLB Trade Rumors just to be the clean-up hitter for Worcester by 2023. With Schwarber this risk does not exist. Not only has Schwarber proven that he is a capable Major League hitter, but he has also proven that he can handle playing in Boston. Neither of which Suzuki has.

Another argument for why Schwarber would be a better fit in Boston is that he would bring balance to the Red Sox lineup. As previously mentioned Seiya would bring balance to the Sox defense as most of the Sox outfield bats are left-handed. However, the Red Sox lineup as a whole is mostly right-handed.

Other than the outfield, the only left-handed position player in the Red Sox lineup is Rafael Devers. Bringing back Kyle Schwarber would add a much-needed left-handed power bat into the Red Sox lineup that the right-handed hitting Suzuki cannot.

A big reason Suzuki would be a better fit is that he would be a cheaper option than Schwarber. According to MLB Trade Rumors Suzuki is expected to land a 5 year $55 million deal. Schwarber meanwhile is expected to get 4 years and $70 million in free agency. That’s a difference of $6.5 million in the average annual value between the two players.

That might not seem like a big difference in today’s game where Max Scherzer is making an average annual value north of $40 million. But it should be noted that a major reason why the Red Sox were shopping Hunter, to begin with, was that he was expected to see an increase in his salary in arbitration due to his breakout season in 2021.

Ultimately they ended up taking on more salary in order to buy prospects, but still, their initial interest in trading Renfroe due to his salary increase demonstrates that despite their recent success the Red Sox are still looking for ways to save money.

This is an opportunity to do just that. Suzuki will cost the Red Sox less money and will most likely have more years of team control as well. As previously mentioned there is an inherent risk in signing an international free agent like Suzuki, but if the Sox are looking to save money in order to go after a big-ticket free agent or re-sign Xander Bogaerts and/or Rafael Devers it might be a risk they are willing to take.

My final argument for why Schwarber is a better fit is that he can play first base. When it comes to versatility there is no doubt that Suzuki is the more versatile player; he can play all three outfield positions as well as second base, but where Schwarber has Suzuki beat is his ability to play first base.

Bobby Dalbec had both a tremendous 2020 campaign and was even better the last two months of 2021, but we also can’t ignore the first four months of 2021. The Red Sox didn’t. Despite Dalbec’s red hot final two months of the regular season, he spent most of the postseason riding the bench. Dalbec got a total of 12 plate appearances during the Sox’s postseason run.

While Boston would likely begin the 2022 season with Dalbec as their starting first baseman and either Schwaber or Suzuki in the outfield if he struggles to begin the season similarly to how he did in 2021 Schwarber would represent an insurance option for them at first base.

He would also lessen any urgency to rush Triston Casas to the big leagues if he were to get off to a hot start in AAA. Speaking of Casas, Schwarber could serve as a bridge to Casas at the first base position in 2022 and then could move to the DH position in 2023 when Casas will presumably be ready and Martinez will most likely have left in free agency.

While I believe that the best move for the Red Sox would be to sign both Schwarber and Suzuki if I had to choose one it would be Schwarber. While Schwarber would add another lefty bat to an already lefty-heavy outfield and would most likely cost more money he is very clearly the better choice between the two.

He has already established himself as one of the best power hitters in baseball, he can serve as an insurance option for Bobby Dalbec at first base this season and then move to the DH spot next season, he will add a lefty power bat to a mostly right-handed Red Sox lineup, and he has already proven that he can not only handle but thrive playing in the toughest city in all of sports to play in, Boston.

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