MLB team owners imposing a lockout last month brought free agency to a grinding halt, leaving hundreds of players in a state of limbo. Among them is Japanese star outfielder Seiya Suzuki, who was posted by the Hiroshima Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball on Nov. 22.
The 27-year-old initially had 30 days to join a team, but the work stoppage put a pause on his window to sign. Whenever that timeframe starts again, he will have roughly three weeks to reach an agreement or else return to Hiroshima for the 2022 season.
Of course, with MLB and the Players Association at significant odds, there’s no telling when a new collective bargaining agreement will be in place. It could come after the NPB begins Spring Training, which would present a dilemma for Suzuki.
Suzuki admitted that the lockout is unfamiliar territory for him but remains committed to playing in MLB this year, via Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic:
“I’m just going to wait until both sides agree,” said Suzuki, who arrived in Okinawa last week to conduct workouts on his own. “There’s no date I set on myself. In Japan, you don’t experience a lockout so it’s a first for me. At first, I was a little worried about it. But when you think about it, it’s going to end sometime soon. Just having that positive mindset that it will end sometime has allowed me to keep my head up.”
Suzuki set career highs with 38 home runs and a 1.079 on-base plus slugging percentage last season, and in nine years playing in NPB, has hit .315/.415/.571 and made five All-Star teams. He has represented Japan in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Per the posting agreement between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), the Carp would be due a release fee that amounts to 20% of the first $25 million from a contract Suzuki signs. Should the total value exceed that amount, the Carp would receive an additional $17.5% of the next $25 million, and 15% for any total that exceeds $50 million.
Dodgers among teams reportedly interested in Suzuki
The Los Angeles Dodgers were among several teams to express interest in Suzuki before the lockout. He would help provide needed balance in the lineup as a right-handed hitter, but having exclusively played the outfield since 2015, there isn’t a clear fit.
In addition to the Dodgers, the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays were said to be aggressively pursuing Suzuki.
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