Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki became one of the most sought-after free agents when he was officially posted on November 22 and he’ll still be highly coveted when the lockout ends. While there is normally a 30-day window for posted players to negotiate with MLB teams, the timer has been paused until transactions can resume. That gives the outfielder a little less than three weeks to choose his new destination, though he’s already met with several teams and probably has a good idea of where he’ll end up.
Some of that decision may come down to which city has the best food, particularly nachos, as Andrew Baggerly explained in The Athletic. Suzuki is obviously seeking the challenge of a new team and league, but he’s taking a holistic approach to the evaluation that he said includes his wife’s preferences for environment, lifestyle, and routine.
If food really is part of the equation, it’s hard to argue any city out there has a better claim than Chicago. New Yorkers will certainly disagree on that front, but they aren’t aware of life beyond the four boroughs (they don’t even know Staten Island exists). Those in LA might offer a challenge if they cared, and other cities are no doubt bullish on their own cuisine. I just think that when it comes to offering a full gamut of fare, whether local or from around the glove, Chicago is at the top of the list.
And when it comes to vibe and atmosphere, I dare you to come up with a better summer city. Suzuki would also have the benefit of challenging himself by being part of the next great Cubs team, which certainly has some appeal.
Now, that is all predicated on the idea that the Cubs would pursue him in the first place, which doesn’t really seem to be the case. Who knows, maybe they can sneak in there and accomplish what they were not able to with Shohei Ohtani. I still can’t believe how many people wanted the Cubs to stay away from Ohtani because of the “cost” or “hassle.”
A lot of those opinions were rooted in ignorance of the posting system, which has changed significantly since Yu Darvish and other big names came over from Japan. Rather than teams bidding for the right to negotiate with a player, the posting fee is based on the eventual contract amount. As such, the previous NPB team gets 20% of the contract’s first $25 million, 17.5% of the next $25 million, and 15% of anything above that (including incentives and options).
In any case, we won’t hear much more from Suzuki until the lockout ends because he can’t sign with anyone until then. From the sound of it, he’s willing to let everything play out as long as it takes rather than possibly staying in Japan for another year.
“I’m just going to wait until both sides agree,” Suzuki told Baggerly. “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.”
I still maintain that this guy would be a tremendous fit for the Cubs, though I’m backing off of that at this point for the simple fact that I don’t want to be disappointed when he ends up elsewhere.