With Buster Posey's bat gone for good after his retirement from baseball and Kris Bryant a free agent, the SF Giants have a need for a consistent hitter in the middle of their lineup in 2022 and beyond. Not many rumors are floating in the midst of the MLB lockout about their possible signings for the big-league team, but a unique name was mentioned in connection with the Orange and Black on Wednesday.
Japanese star Seiya Suzuki was posted by his team, the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball, just over a week before the CBA expired on December 1 and Major League Baseball entered its first work stoppage in 26 years. Many large-market teams and others with money to spend were expected to have interest in the 27-year-old, and MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman mentioned he had heard many West Coast teams, including the Giants, were also targeting the talented outfielder.
Suzuki has starred in international play
Suzuki's talent has been on display for years, as he has earned four All-Star nods in nine NPB seasons to go along with three Gold Glove Awards. He also led the Japanese team at the 2019 WBSC Premier 12 tournament, taking home the MVP award after batting .478 with three home runs in eight games, and won a gold medal with Japan in the recent Tokyo Olympics.
A second-round draft choice out of high school as a pitcher in 2012, Suzuki soon became an infielder and made his debut in Japan's top league, the Japan Central League, near the end of the 2013 season at age 18. By 2015 he was an outfielder and made the Carp's Opening Day roster, and in 2016 he played a full season for the first time.
An All-Star from 2016-2019 and again in 2021 (Japan's 2020 All-Star series was canceled thanks to the coronavirus), Suzuki has a career .315/.414/.570 slash line with 182 homers in 902 games at the highest level in Japan. He's coming off possibly his best season, having mashed 38 home runs with a .639 slugging percentage and 1.072 OPS - all career-highs.
Under the posting agreement between MLB and NPB, a player has 30 days to negotiate with MLB clubs after being posted. If he can't come to an agreement, he returns to his Japanese team until the next offseason.
Negotiations on hold
Suzuki was posted 10 days before the lockout began, and because he didn't sign in that time the posting window is paused until a new CBA is in place. At that point he'll have 20 more days to negotiate a contract. MLB front offices are barred from contact with players who will be on 40-man rosters in the coming season until the union and MLB owners come to an agreement on the new CBA.
The Giants have a rich history of Japanese players on the roster, from the first native Japanese player in all of MLB, Masanori Murakami in 1964-65, to Tsuyoshi Shinjo in 2002, Keiichi Yabu in 2008, Kensuke Tanaka in 2013 and Nori Aoki in 2015. In addition, recent Giants hero and current minor-league hitting coach Travis Ishikawa is Japanese-American, and longtime bullpen catcher Taira Uematsu was promoted to Major League Assistant Coach this offseason.