The lockout is over, baseball is back, the cap is higher, and the Phillies organization needs to step up in the right way. Before the lockout, the Phillies made quiet moves for Corey Knebel and Garrett Stubbs, but now they have a chance to launch this organization into a whole new ballgame, so to speak. Signing veteran reliever Jeurys Familia is a start, but more needs to be done. That new ballgame means ushering in new free agency and trade choices. What better than tapping into the international market for a much-needed outfielder/hitter the Phillies desperately need. This means moving towards some of the best talents outside of Major League Baseball, the Nippon Professional Baseball league. 

 

NPB and MLB

 

Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) has produced many stars of the game since its inception in 1950. Currently, in Major League Baseball, there are only six Japanese-born players in the league.  

They are so named: Yu Darvish (Padres), Kenta Maeda (Twins), Shogo Akiyama (Reds), Hirokazu Sawamura (Red Sox), Yusei Kikuchi (Blue Jays), and Shohei Ohtani (Angels). 

All of these players have translated their elite game from the NPB to MLB, and it shows with multiple Cy Young and MVP votes attributed to these ballplayers. 

 

And now…

 

A new player has joined the game… his name is Seiya Suzuki! 

 

Hiroshima Carp and the Philadelphia Phillies

 

Seiya Suzuki (​​鈴木 誠也 or properly called Suzuki Seiya) is a 27-year-old outfield who plays with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in Japan. The foundation of the Carp connects to the history and rebuilding of Hiroshima post-WWII, and it is seen throughout the city’s pride for their team. 

 

Personally, if there were an NPB counterpart to the Philadelphia Phillies, it would be the Hiroshima Toyo Carp because their successful periods align with the Phillies’ successful periods. The Carp have won nine Central Championships, close to our seven National League Championships. The Carp have won the Japanese Series three times, and our Phightin’ Phils have two World Series championships. 

 

So, Hiroshima has a similar winning history to the Phillies. 

 

The only Japanese players the Phillies ever had in their franchise history are So Taguchi and Tadahito Iguchi. Taguchi has a World Series ring from the 2008 Phillies World Series. Tadahito Iguchi played during the 2007 season, and half of the 2008 Season, even though he was not with the Phillies during the Fall Classic, he did get a World Series ring. 

 

Iguchi was the first Asian-born player to play for the Phillies, and he should not be last. The Phillies need to look outside of the mainstream channels of talent that can contribute to the team. 

 

Suzuki Seiya (鈴木 誠也)

 

Seiya Suzuki (鈴木 誠也) broke into the NPB at the age of 18 and has become a three-time Gold Glover and five-time All-Star since he started in 2013. Suzuki put up a .318 BA, 38 HR, 88 RBIs, and 1.079 OPS this season. Seiya Suzuki has put up these types of numbers since 2016, and he is only 27! 

 

Suzuki would be an incredible asset for the Phillies outfield, and he can definitely field, hence the three gold glove awards. An excellent fielding and hitting outfielder is precisely what the Phillies need. Obviously, he will not come cheap, but the Phillies might be able to sign him to a 4-5 year contract worth $10-15 million, which would be worth it, especially if the numbers convert. 

 

Many people worry that non-MLB players will not translate their skills to the majors, but that should not be a worry here. 

 

Other Japanese-Born Players 

 

The most prolific Japanese-born baseball player in MLB history, Ichiro Suzuki batted .353 in Japan and converted it to a .311 BA in the United States. If Seiya Suzuki consistently batted around .320 to .330 in Japan, he should translate to a .280 to .290 BA. So, Seiya Suzuki would be superior to any Phillies outfielder’s performance in 2021. Obviously, this does not include Bryce Harper, but every Phillies Phan should be grateful if Suzuki signs. 

 

Shohei Ohtani is currently up for the AL MVP award, and he has only been in the league for three years! So, Japanese players can play in the MLB, and the MLB needs more Japanese players. It is crazy that Japan has won the World Baseball Classic and the Olympics versus all of the dominant Western Hemisphere nations, yet there are only six in MLB.

 

Suzuki and the Phillies

 

Seiya Suzuki (鈴木 誠也) and the Phillies are a match made in heaven. He wants to win at the MLB level, and the Phillies are a prime team ready for another run in the NL East. Seiya Suzuki can help elevate the fielding and hitting on this team to protect our pitchers and reinforce Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and Rhys Hoskins in the lineup. 

 

Suzuki would be a great fit in Left Field or Center Field. Depending on the performance of Matt Vierling, Adam Haseley, Mickey Moniak, or maybe even Simon Muzzioti at Spring training will determine the third outfield position. This summer, Seiya Suzuki is no stranger to victory after Team Japan claimed gold medals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

 

This offseason, the rumor mill is that the Phillies are looking to acquire Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, or even Nick Castellanos. Also, there is a trade market for Ketel Marte and Kevin Kiermaier that could work, but how much would the Phillies need to give up? Unless the Phillies can strike up a deal that does not involve losing Bryson Stott, Mick Abel, Andrew Painter, or Hans Crouse, then no Phillies Phan should be excited. 

 

In Conclusion

 

Bryce Harper said that the Phillies’ in-house talent needs to step up next year if they are going to make a run at the championship. Harper is correct because throwing “stupid money” has not gotten a lot of people the championship, i.e., the NY Yankees of the last decade. 

 

Seiya Suzuki fits perfectly with the Phillies system. A stellar fielder and great contact/power guy make him a fearsome anomaly for the Phillies’ starting nine. The Phillies should venture into international talent more. Hopefully, Dave Dombrowski knows this and is making a run for the Japanese-native outfielder now that the NPB has posted him. 

 

Philadelphia needs Suzuki, and hopefully, the Phillies pursue him with the utmost zeal.  

 

Photo: Thomas Harrigan/MLB.com

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