RAFU WIRE SERVICES AND STAFF REPORTS
The Angels have agreed to terms on a one-year, $1.75 million contract with catcher Kurt Suzuki.
The 38-year-old native of Hawaii played in 72 games for the Angels last season, and ranks second among active catchers in games (1,496), innings (12,618.0) and putouts (10,528).
Over his last five seasons, Suzuki is batting .264 (325/1233) with 64 doubles, 56 home runs and 186 RBI.
He has compiled a .257 (1396/5424) career average with 291 doubles, 139 home runs and 715 RBI across 15 Major League seasons with the Athletics (2007- 12, ’13), Nationals (2012-13, ’19-20), Twins (2014-16), Braves (2017-18) and Angels (2021).
Suzuki was a member of the Nationals 2019 World Series Championship team and was selected to the 2014 A.L. All-Star Team. He is also a two-time MLBPAA Heart and Hustle Award winner. Suzuki was originally selected by Oakland in the second round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft out of Cal State Fullerton, where he was a member of the Titans 2004 College World Series Championship team.
In a corresponding 40-man roster move, RHP Chris Rodriguez been placed on the 60-day injured list.
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Reports that Hiroshima Carp star Seiya Suzuki has agreed to sign with the Chicago Cubs instantly ratcheted up interest in the National League Central Division on Wednesday.
The deal, reported by Associated Press at $85 million for five years, would be the second biggest handed to a Japanese player without Major League Baseball experience after Masahiro Tanaka’s seven-year, $155 million contract with the New York Yankees in 2014.
The agreement signals the Cubs hope to speed up the rebuilding process after breaking up their 2016 championship core before last season’s trade deadline.
The 27-year-old Suzuki was a five-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner over nine seasons with Hiroshima in Nippon Professional Baseball. He 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.
Speaking at the Cubs’ Arizona spring training facility, Cubs manager David Ross said the rumors were exciting.
“All those things are good to hear,” Ross told reporters. “The player has a unique skill set that is valued in Major League Baseball and a lot of teams are after him. The fact that our name is at the top of the rumor mill, that’s exciting.”
If the deal goes through, Suzuki will be in the same division with Japan’s other two MLB position players and his former Japan international teammates, Shogo Akiyama of the Cincinnati Reds and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Tsutsugo received a contract extension from the Pirates in November after producing well in 43 games, turning his MLB career around after being released by two teams last season.
“I’m so looking forward to seeing him do well,” said Tsutsugo, whose career in MLB took a dramatic turn for the better after joining the Pirates in the summer. “We’ll get to see each other a lot, and I want to lend a hand if he has any difficulties.”
Akiyama, who has struggled to get playing time in Cincinnati, said he expects Suzuki will transition easily to MLB.
“I get the feeling he’s really good at separating his work from his life, and I think he’ll get used to the majors quickly,” Akiyama said. “If we are in the same division, I’ll look forward to that, but my priority is taking care of business on my end. I have to get my act together.”
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. They traded ace Yu Darvish to the San Diego Padres before last season, then dealt championship core players Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez once the team went into a slump after a strong start.
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In Tempe, Angels star Shohei Ohtani is not setting numerical targets but approaching the delayed 2022 MLB season with flexibility and forward-looking strategic planning.
The 27-year-old Japanese redefined what is possible in baseball with an unprecedented 2021 season in which he showed his two-way prowess as a hitter and pitcher, and wants to demonstrate that he can be even better in 2022.
“Nothing particularly changes because of the season I had last year, and the most important thing is to stay in top form for as long as possible. I hope the season will be good, both for the team and for me personally,” Ohtani said after throwing his first bullpen session on Tuesday.
“It’s going to be pretty hard to try to do the same thing I did last year and I’m not expecting those same stats. I’m aiming to go a lot higher.”
Ohtani won the American League MVP and Silver Slugger awards, among other accolades he racked up throughout the winter. He batted .257 with 46 homers and 26 stolen bases as a hitter last year, while also going 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA in 130-1/3 innings on the mound.