Seiya Suzuki Emulating Mike Trout as Cornerstone of ‘Next Great Cubs Team’

Seiya Suzuki had a number of teams reportedly interested in his services, all but one of which are located in coastal cities, so the Cubs seemed like something of an underdog in the proceedings. But when Suzuki discussed the criteria for his decision with Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic back in January, his interests in food — specifically nachos — and the overall culture of his new city were paramount.

He also explained that his wife would play a big role in the choice.

“The environment and atmosphere will be very important to her,” Suzuki said. “The cities, the lifestyle, the routines.”

It’s impossible to argue against the beachfront beauty and impeccable weather of San Diego, but Chicago in the spring and summer is as vibrant a city as you’ll find anywhere. Even the frigid grip of winter can’t completely tamp down that residual vibe, as Suzuki learned firsthand just before agreeing to sign with the Cubs. Following a Monday meeting with a contingent from the team that included Tom Ricketts, the outfielder flew to Chicago Wednesday to visit Wrigley Field and take in the town.

That must have sealed it for him because the reports of his signing broke that same day. Getting $85 million over five years probably helped and Nick Madrigal‘s artwork certainly played an integral role. The two players share an agent, Joel Wolfe, who explained that this wasn’t just about money.

“It became clear to me that what was most important to Seiya was not getting the biggest contract,” Wolfe said. “It was being in the place that he felt he was going to be the most comfortable.”

Suzuki certainly seemed comfortable during his introductory press conference, flashing an easy smile and snapping off one-liners. The most memorable of those came while explaining his choice of number 27.

Mike Trout,” he said before a pregnant pause. “I love you.”

While it’s more than a little irresponsible to expect Suzuki to become a perennial MVP candidate, he does boast a sweet right-handed swing as part of his five-tool profile. He flashed that pop shortly after stepping down from the dais, peppering the outfield berm during a live BP session Friday afternoon. Big-time power probably won’t be his calling card, but fans can expect a patient plate approach and solid defense that makes him the kind of consistent all-around performer the team has lacked of late.

“We’ve talked a lot about building the next great Cubs team,” Jed Hoyer explained during the presser. “We signed Seiya to a five-year contract because we believe he’ll play a significant role in that success now and that success in the future.”

Over the last three seasons, Suzuki has hit 91 homers with 82 doubles and has walked 20 more times (260) than he’s struck out (240). His .310/.402/.542 slash line last year included a career-best 38 homers and he also eclipsed a 1.000 OPS in four of the last six seasons. He’ll take over in right field, pushing Jason Heyward to center and/or the bench, and will balance out what was largely a lefty-batting outfield rotation.

The Cubs remained patient throughout the recruiting process, showing Suzuki respect and demonstrating a passion to sign him that won him over. Convincing him to join a team that is trying to retool after a series of disappointing seasons wasn’t easy, but now comes the really hard part: Making sure Suzuki doesn’t end up like Trout in Anaheim.

In other words, it’s not good enough to have a stud outfielder around whom they perpetually fail to build a competitive roster.

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