CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Cubs showed they’re serious about competing again after selling off their stars last year, agreeing to a contract with Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki.
Suzuki agreed to an $85 million, five-year deal, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The person, confirming several reports, spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal was pending a successful physical.
Chicago will pay an additional $14,625,000 as a posting fee to Suzuki’s club, the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of Japan’s Central League.
President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has been busy over the past year retooling a team that didn’t quite deliver the way the Cubs hoped after a drought-busting World Series championship in 2016. He broke up the title-winning core prior to last season’s trade deadline, part of a series of moves he hopes will help lead the franchise back toward the top.
Signing the 27-year-old Suzuki is a big one.
A five-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner over nine seasons with the Carp, he could give some much-needed pop to an offense that ranked among the worst in the majors in 2021. The Cubs struck out a major-league record 1,596 times, and were 21st in runs and 24th in batting average at .237.
Suzuki batted .317 with 38 home runs and 88 RBIs in 132 games last season and had nearly as many walks (87) as strikeouts (88). He is a career .315 hitter with 182 homers and 562 RBIs for Hiroshima.
Suzuki plays right field, a position five-time Gold Glove winner Jason Heyward has manned for the Cubs since signing a $184 million, eight-year contract before the 2016 World Series championship season. But while Heyward has provided strong defense and leadership, he hasn’t performed at the plate the way Chicago hoped. The 32-year-old veteran’s average dropped from .265 in 2020 to .214 last season, and he finished with eight homers and 30 RBIs in 104 games.
The Cubs also have Ian Happ, Clint Frazier and Rafael Ortega in the outfield, with prized prospect Brennen Davis in the system. The advent of the designated hitter in the National League gives manager David Ross more flexibility.
The Cubs are looking to regroup after finishing fourth in the NL Central at 71-91 in 2021 and missing the playoffs for the second time in three years. It was their worst record since the 2013 team went 66-96.
Chicago traded ace Yu Darvish to the San Diego Padres before last season and let Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber go as free agents. The Cubs went from leading the NL Central at 42-33 after Zach Davies and the bullpen combined to no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 24 to dropping the next 11 games.
That convinced Hoyer more big changes were needed.
He traded away three players who helped Chicago win its lone championship since 1908, dealing former MVP Kris Bryant to San Francisco, Anthony Rizzo to the New York Yankees and Javier Báez to the New York Mets. The Cubs also sent closer Craig Kimbrel, then in his third season with them, to the crosstown White Sox prior to the deadline.
Chicago made a big move to boost the pitching staff just before the lockout by agreeing to a $71 million, three-year contract with Marcus Stroman. The 30-year-old right-hander was 10-13 with a 3.02 ERA and tied for the major league lead by making 33 starts for the Mets last season.
They also added veteran left-hander Wade Miley in November. And they finalized a deal with slick-fielding shortstop Andrelton Simmons on Tuesday.
Under 2017 changes to the posting system, the posting fee will be 20 percent of the first $25 million of the contract, including earned bonuses and options. The percentage drops to 17.5 percent of the next $25 million and 15 percent of any amount over $50 million. There would be a supplemental fee of 15 percent of any earned bonuses, salary escalators and exercised options.
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