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Braves Potential Free Agency Target: Seiya Suzuki

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The Braves have a potential need for another outfielder. Is Japanese star Seiya Suzuki a fit?

United States v Japan - Baseball Gold Medal Game - Olympics: Day 15 Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The Atlanta Braves are in a strange position with their outfield right now in that with the injury to Ronald Acuna Jr. and the contract status of, well, the rest of their outfield means that nothing is certain about who will be out there on Opening Day 2022. Fans’ preferred options seem to including bringing back at least one of Eddie Rosario or Jorge Soler who were both instrumental during the Braves’ run to the World Series title, but one name that is an intriguing option is Japanese star Seiya Suzuki.

Suzuki is the premier name amongst Japanese players and, based on available projections, it is likely that any team that wants to enlist his services is going to have to start by paying a posting fee of around $10 million. At 27 years old, Suzuki slashed .317/.433/.639 during the 2021 season over in Japan and he has hit for average and power over the last several seasons. He doesn’t strike out very much, he walks at a high clip, apparently has a Howitzer for an arm which bodes well for him playing either corner outfield spot, and he has been productive at the plate. These are all good things for any team in need of help in the outfield especially since, at least on paper, the expected $40-50 million deal that is likely needed to sign him isn’t all that expensive.

That said, for Braves fans thinking that he would be perfect for Atlanta, one shouldn’t get their hopes up. While the fit makes a certain amount of sense in terms of positional need, the Braves have not really been players in the market for Japanese players since they signed Kenshin Kawakami way back in 2009. One reason for that is that, from a marketing perspective, Japanese players have mostly either gone to big market teams like the Yankees OR gone to West Coast teams where it is easier for those players’ fans to watch them over in Japan. This rule isn’t absolute, obviously, but it does help explain why some of the teams expected to be in the bidding for Suzuki include the Giants, Mariners, Yankees, Red Sox, Padres, and Dodgers.

Another issue here is that while there have been some exceptions to be sure, signing players from other leagues outside the US has proven to be very risky. Many of these players, particularly at the plate, have not performed well in the major leagues and for a team like the Braves that is firmly in their window for contention, it may not be a risk they are willing to take on.

In short, is likely that the Braves are at least weighing Seiya Suzuki as an option this offseason. He obviously has talent at the plate and that cannot be overlooked. That said, it does seem more likely that the Braves will remain focused on re-signing Freddie Freeman (or replacing him in the worst case scenario which Suzuki does not) and then bring back either Rosario and/or Soler to join Adam Duvall and some of their internal options (Pache, Waters, etc.) to put together an outfield while Acuna Jr. is on the mend.