Cubs agree to deal with Japanese star Seiya Suzuki
The Cubs’ commitment to Suzuki begins to answer questions about the direction of the club after the trade-deadline sell-off last summer broke up the 2016 championship core.
MESA, Ariz. — Less than 48 hours after the Cubs’ brass met with Seiya Suzuki’s camp, the Japanese outfielder had made his decision: He was going to Chicago.
Suzuki reportedly agreed to a five-year, $85 million contract with the Cubs, pending a physical. The Cubs also will pay $14,625,000 as a posting fee to the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of Japan’s Central League, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
The signing is the Cubs’ biggest of the offseason, both financially and by length of contract. Before the lockout, the Cubs signed right-hander Marcus Stroman to a three-year, $71 million deal.
The Cubs’ commitment to Suzuki also begins to answer questions about the direction of the club after its trade-deadline sell-off last summer broke up the 2016 championship core.
‘‘They’re gonna try to accrue as much talent as they possibly can,’’ manager David Ross said of the front office. ‘‘Whether it’s at the big-league level or the minor-league level, we’re going to try to get as much talent in this organization as we possibly can. Because that’s what winning organizations have.’’
Ross declined to talk specifically about Suzuki’s signing because it wasn’t official yet.
‘‘The rumors are exciting, right?’’ he said. ‘‘All that stuff is good to see and hear. . . . The player has a unique skillset that is valued in Major League Baseball, and a lot of teams are after him. So the fact that our name is on the top of the rumor mill, that’s exciting.’’
Suzuki will add power to the Cubs, who mostly have brought in contact hitting since the trade deadline. He was a five-time All-Star with the Carp and hit .317 with 38 home runs and 88 RBI in 132 games last season.
Suzuki isn’t expected to replicate those numbers as he transitions to the U.S. game, but the pop in his bat is clear.
So was the Cubs’ commitment in their pitch to him. Top team officials met with Suzuki and his representatives Monday, a Sun-Times source confirmed. Their competition was stiff, with the Padres, Dodgers, Red Sox, Giants and Mariners reportedly vying for Suzuki’s services, too.
At 27 years old, Suzuki also fits into the Cubs’ long-term plans. The Cubs don’t look like a team that’s going to be competing for the 2022 World Series, but they’ve promised their fans their trade-deadline flurry last season would reposition the roster and lay the groundwork for another period of sustained success.
Whether the method was the right one for a big-market team is another conversation. But when Ross talks about accruing major- and minor-league talent, think about the prospect-heavy returns the Cubs have received dating to the Yu Darvish trade in December 2020.
Some of those prospects will make their way up the farm system and break into the big leagues while Suzuki still is expected to be in his prime. Others, the Cubs will trade to fill out the roster in the coming years.
Suzuki’s addition straddles the ‘‘one eye on the present and one eye on the future’’ balance president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has been talking about since replacing Theo Epstein in November 2020.
In the present, the Cubs have to figure out their defensive plan with Suzuki in the outfield mix. Their spring-training workout Wednesday at Sloan Park provided a glimpse into one way the Cubs might open a spot for Suzuki, who primarily has played right field: Jason Heyward, a five-time Gold Glove-winning right fielder, was taking fly balls in center.
‘‘I‘ve already told the outfielders from Day 1 in camp [that] I think flexibility is important,’’ Ross said. ‘‘You know how that is to me. And if we’re talking specifically about Jason Heyward, that guy wants to win and will do anything possible for the team.’’