Cubs reportedly land Seiya Suzuki on five-year, $85 million deal

(Photo by Yuichi Masuda/Getty Images)
(Photo by Yuichi Masuda/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs made an ‘extensive’ pitch to Seiya Suzuki on Monday that personally included owner Tom Ricketts – and it appears it paid off, with the news the Japanese superstar outfielder is coming to the North Side on a five-year, $85 million deal.

Suzuki, who had been connected to the Cubs to varying degrees throughout the offseason, was reported to be going to San Diego, but personally disputed that report. Now, the 27-year-old outfielder will immediately give the Chicago outfield a massive boost. He’s coming off a season in Japan in which he batted .317/.433/.636 with 38 home runs – a career-high.

It’s unclear how exactly he’ll figure into the mix for the Cubs, but it seems like a decent bet that he’s going to see a ton of time in right field as Jason Heyward takes on a more diminished role we heard about earlier this winter. Suzuki is a plus defender – and will play a key role on that side of the ball for Chicago.

Ian Happ figures to see time in left field – at least in an ideal scenario. From there, it’s wide open who takes the third spot (whether that be center with Happ in left or left, with Happ in center). Rafael Ortega and Michael Hermosillo will battle newcomers Clint Frazier and Harold Ramirez for reps in camp.

Cubs: Setting realistic expectations for Seiya Suzuki as he transitions to MLB

As thrilling as it is to A) see the Cubs come out of this scramble as the winners and B) see the front office and ownership adding any major free agent, I think it’s important to make sure we’re all being realistic in our expectations with Suzuki. It’s not impossible, but fairly unlikely, he comes over and pops 40 home runs right out of the gate.

Still, Steamer has him pegged for 3.7 WAR and a 141 wRC+ this year – which would obviously be welcomed by Chicago, whose outfield – as noted – is full of question marks.

Historically, there’s been a major drop-off for players coming to MLB from the NPB. The most recent glaring example, of course, is Cincinnati outfielder Shogo Akiyama who, after batting .301/.376/.454 across nine years in NPB, has hit just .224/.320/.274 in his first two seasons in the big leagues.

The main two offensive success stories that have come from Japan are, of course, Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui. The Cubs’ biggest Japanese signing came in the form of outfielder Kosuke Fukudome back in 2007 – but despite being a slightly above-average offensive presence during his time with Chicago, managed just one All-Star nod in his big league career and never replicated his foreign successes.

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Regardless, it’ll be all eyes on Suzuki when he reports to camp this week in Mesa. This marks Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins’ first major move since the lockout ended – and it certainly shouldn’t be the last.