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Baseball

A Modest Proposal for the Rangers to Sign a Japanese Enigma, Because Fun

Seiya Suzuki has a cool name and no one has any idea what happens when he comes stateside. Deal me in.
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Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

Has your sports brain calibrated to accept the MLB offseason truly is upon us?

Well, it’s here either way, and we can spot it less through what’s happened thus far—the Cincinnati Reds shedding payroll, mostly—than all the stories about what maybe, possibly, might happen for everyone else. Especially the Texas Rangers. The implication of the Rangers’ front office speaking rather openly about spending big this winter is they will be the subject of more rumors and hearsay than they have been in a half a decade or so.

What one does with that is up to the individual, but generally, it’s wise to approach everything with a grain of salt. It’s why our Jamey Newberg put together a helpful primer this morning on what “untouchable” actually means—to arm us all with better, smarter information so we don’t drown in the deluge of offseason hypotheticals.

But sometimes, I don’t want the right information. I don’t want to be educated. Sometimes, all I want is to dream and dream big about the great, vast baseball frontier beyond these fair shores. I want to be titillated by the spectrum of possibilities that comes with having zero reasonable ideas of what could happen.

Which is to say I am choosing to unabashedly believe the following tweet from MLB Network’s Jon Morosi:

I should note noting that Morosi is a well-respected reporter with plenty of credibility, which makes this a piece of news worth taking seriously. So, hell yeah. But I’m going to level with you: when it comes to Seiya Suzuki, the four-time All-Star outfielder for Nippon Professional Baseball’s Hiroshima Toyo Carp, I’ll scarf down scoops anywhere. Bring me your half-sourced social media posts and the resulting 75-word aggregation blogs. Send over your Reddit threads. I demand anything that allows me indulge this—preferably in one easily accessible Google alert so I can go click-click-click-click-clickety-clickety-click like I’m bingeing at a low-calorie baseball journalism buffet.

Is this because Suzuki will be that good? Probably not. He certainly has been in Japan, recording a league-leading 8.4 Wins Above Replacement, which is 1.5 higher than any MLB hitter this year. But while Japan is widely regarded as the second-best league in the world, its players have enjoyed wildly varied levels of success stateside. For every Yu Darvish, there are five more pitchers like Koji Arihara, who posted a ghastly 6.64 ERA after the Rangers signed him to a two-year deal last winter. For every big bopper like former Yankee Hideki Matsui, there are five more hitters like Yoshi Tsutsugo and Shogo Akiyama, the two most recent big-time outfielders to make the move over. Neither’s come close to replicating his NPB form.

There are reasons to suspect Suzuki is different. Among them: age (27), plate discipline (more walks than strikeouts last year), and defense (three Gold Gloves). But the truth is no one knows anything, at all. As the old Family Guy joke goes, the mystery box could be anything—even a boat. Betting on a rebound from the Mets’ Michael Conforto would probably be the safer play.

And that’s exactly why I want to watch him in Arlington. There’s a reason the Rangers haven’t been in the news like this in years: things have been safe, and pretty boring. Not everything, of course—Joey Gallo was allergic to boring—but many of the things. The last two years, in particular, have been unspeakably dull. The 2020 group was a solved game, a mediocre, veteran-heavy squad with a low ceiling and a fairly long tenure in town. We knew almost everything about them and their limitations, which made the season feel like a snoozer of a novel that’s dragged on five chapters too long. The 2021 season was abject misery. Things are absolutely improving; even at their lowest, this year’s Rangers were laying the groundwork for better days.

But it’s going to be a while before this team is positioned to contend, which means they need to lean on something else to entertain everyone for six months a year. I submit that they should do so through intrigue. Seyia Suzuki has an 80-grade name, does a lot of different things on the baseball field, is young enough to keep growing, and will be a big ‘ol shrug emoji as soon as touches down stateside. Great. The process of learning all about what and who he is will sustain me through the inevitable June swoon and the preordained lethargic series sweep in August by the Cleveland Guardians or whoever else occupies fourth place in the AL Central.

The Morning News’ Evan Grant speculated this morning that a deal could cost around $11 to $13 million per year, which, sure! Relative to his abilities and track record, that seems reasonable. Relative to the cost of capturing attention spans, it feels like a bargain.

So cut the check and hope for the best. Because the hypothetical worst will still be fun, and that’s well worth the investment.

 

 

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