Could the Cubs pursue another Japanese outfielder this winter?
By Jake Misener
Seiya Suzuki represented last winter's big position player addition for the Cubs, signing a five-year, $80 million deal that will keep him in Chicago through 2026. Now, another premier Japanese outfielder is set to make the jump to Major League Baseball in the form of Masataka Yoshida.
The 29-year-old outfielder is coming off another stellar season in Japan, in which he slashed .336/.449/.559 for the Orix Buffaloes. Cut from the low-strikeout, high-walk cloth the Cubs value, it stands to reason the team could, at least in theory, kick the tires on Yoshida this winter.
I love the idea of adding a guy who's known for grinding at-bats and being a tough out to the lineup, but given the outfield prospects on the horizon and this team's dire need for major power, I don't consider the Cubs to be in the hunt for Yoshida this offseason. The long-term fit isn't perfect and there are teams that need what this guy offers far more than Chicago does.
Cubs seem far likelier to address center field with short-term solution
Obviously, a lot can change between now and Opening Day next March, but right now, the Cubs will trot out an outfield mix that features Ian Happ in left and Suzuki in right. Center field remains a glaring question mark - one that could be answered by adding either Cody Bellinger or Kevin Kiermaier - and we'll have to wait and see how that plays out.
Happ is a logical extension candidate after turning in a quietly impressive 2022 season, ranking sixth in all baseball with 42 doubles, accumulating 4.2 bWAR in the process. As if his dramatic improvement at the dish wasn't enough, he also went out and won a Gold Glove in left field - setting himself up for either a healthy extension this winter or a nice payday when he hits free agency next winter.
The Cubs will look for Suzuki to take another step forward in his second year in the league. He was solid, yet hardly spectacular, in his first go-round in MLB - but there's reason to believe he has more to offer than what we saw this year.
Had the Cubs not just doled out a five-year deal to Suzuki, maybe Yoshida would make more sense - but I don't see this match aligning. A much better bet would be the Giants, Mariners - or maybe the Blue Jays. Regardless of where he lands, I expect a lot of interest in this guy in the weeks to come.