The Atlanta Braves won the World Series, and, after going through a comically horrible championship parade, they now have the daunting task of attempting to become the first repeat World Series winner since 2000. The 29 other Major League clubs are all looking to knock the Braves off their throne, and there’s a likely international free agent who could really help accomplish that mission.
Seiya Suzuki is a 27-year-old Japanese outfielder with superstar potential in Major League Baseball. Word on the street is he could be the best Japanese outfield bat since Hideki Matsui. In 2021, Suzuki led the Nippon Professional Baseball League with an 8.4 WAR. He slashed .319/.436/.640 with 38 dingers. You want to know the best part? Suzuki walked more times (88) than he struck out (87). As someone who holds an immense value for plate discipline, that last statistic is just *kisses fingers* icing on the cake!
To put those numbers in perspective, in Shohei Ohtani’s final season in the NPB League, Ohtani slashed .332/.403/.540 with eight home runs in 231 plate appearances and 63 strikeouts to go along with 24 walks. To be fair, Ohtani was just 22 in his final season in Japan, and he missed a lot of the season due to injury. While Suzuki did put up better numbers in his final season with NPB and hasn’t played in fewer than 100 games in a season since 2015, his age is a cause for concern. At 27 years old, it’s hard to imagine that Suzuki has much room to grow as a hitter. On the other hand, we have seen the prime windows of elite MLB talent expand over the past decade or so (Nelson Cruz is still raking at 41), Suzuki’s ceiling appears to be lower compared to Ohtani’s in 2017.
That being said, anyone who can provide similar numbers to Ohtani on offense would be a valuable asset to any team. Plate discipline has especially become a huge part of the game today. With pitcher velocity at an all-time high and analytics reaching for more swing-and-miss strategies than ever before, someone who can lay off those fastballs up in the zone is enormously effective as a hitter. That’s one of the major reasons Juan Soto has developed into one of the game’s best pure hitters. Suzuki will bring the same sort of energy to whichever Major League ball club he signs with. He may not have the same success as Soto, but he has the potential to make a similar impact.
So… which teams could use a bat like Suzuki? Well, all of them. But which teams actually have a chance at signing him? In order to figure this out, I’m going to take a look at a few things: 1) teams with the cash to spend big on a Japanese free agent (let’s face it, the Orioles, Guardians, Marlins, and Pirates don’t have the spending money to acquire someone like Suzuki). He is older than 25 years old, so he will not be limited by MLB’s international spending limits, and 2) teams with a need for an outfielder/strong bat. Here are his most obvious landing spots.