The KC Royals entered last winter needing to stabilize an uncertain outfield. Alex Gordon’s retirement made left field available, no one won the centerfield job in 2020, and strong speculation that Whit Merrifield was moving to right field was just that—speculation.
Fortunately, the Royals filled two of those outfield spots by trading for Andrew Benintendi and signing free agent Michael A. Taylor. Both won their first Gold Gloves, Benintendi overcame an early slump to finish with a good season at the plate and Taylor, despite offensive shortcomings, so proved himself that the club rewarded him with a new two-year deal.
Right field, though, remains up for grabs after Adalberto Mondesi’s injury-riddled season forced Merrifield to play second and not right, and no other Royal excelled at the position. And although rookie Kyle Isbel showed promise, it’s hard to shake the feeling the Royals are still looking for a new right fielder.
Could their answer be Seiya Suzuki, the Nippon Professional Baseball (Japan) veteran who the Hiroshima Toyo Carp posted earlier this week?
Possibly. Suzuki is an excellent hitter and good defender destined to draw strong interest from several major league teams, especially those who can easily afford him. His 189 NPB homers over parts of nine seasons include 176 in the last six campaigns and a career best 38 this year. He boasts a .314 career average and superb .411 OBP, and has stolen at least 16 bases three times. His fielding percentage is .986.
Those numbers, though, don’t tell the entire Suzuki story: he’s won three Gold Gloves and is a four-time All-Star and an Olympian baseball gold medalist. Making him even more attractive to major league clubs is his potential longevity—he’s only 27.
Suzuki, then, sounds like a solid candidate to step in and claim the Royals’ right field job. But an old nemesis may stand in Kansas City’s way.
The KC Royals might not want to pay what it takes to land Seiya Suzuki.
Just because Suzuki has never played in the major leagues doesn’t mean he’ll be a bargain. Suzuki plays in the NPB, an accomplished league with great players, and his talent is big league caliber. Signing him will require a significant outlay, and not just in salary.
Teams bidding for Suzuki’s services know they’ll have to pay handsome salaries for several years. On top of that, though, come the fees major league posting rules require the winning bidder to pay to Hiroshima—20% of the guaranteed value of deals worth less than $25 million, 20 % of the total guaranteed value of contracts and 17.5% of the guaranteed value over $25 million for deals exceeding $25 million but not $50 million. Fees increase from there, and all include a percentage of earned bonuses and other compensation supplements.
Simply put, Suzuki will be quite expensive.
What that means for the KC Royals is what it almost always means for them—they might put in a bid or two, then close their checkbook when things get too pricey for their comfort. Expect Suzuki to command a four or five year deal worth at least $10 million per season; don’t expect Kansas City to spend that kind of money when the club’s last two mega-deals—$65 million and five years for Danny Duffy, and $72 million over four seasons for Alex Gordon—worked out far better for the players than they did for the club.
With Suzuki posting last Monday, teams have until Dec. 22 to bid unless an almost certain work stoppage hits the game if the clubs and players union don’t strike a new collective bargaining deal by 11:59 p.m. ET Dec. 1. In that case, any accompanying transaction freeze will almost certainly delay further bidding until the parties reach a new accord.
But whatever happens, don’t plan on seeing Suzuki holding down the right field fort in Kauffman Stadium next year, at least not for the home team. The Royals aren’t likely to spend what it will take to bring him to Kansas City.
NPB star Seiya Suzuki is on the open major league market. Don’t look for him to join the KC Royals.