Tomase: Schwarber or Suzuki? The pros and cons for the Red Sox originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Trading Hunter Renfroe for Jackie Bradley didn't really represent a one-for-one swap. At this stage in their respective careers, Renfroe remains an everyday player, while Bradley most likely slots as a fourth outfielder.
What the trade did do, however, was create an opening in a corner of the Red Sox outfield, and there are two prime candidates to fill it, one that's known, and one that represents a bit of a dice roll.
When the offseason resumes, the Red Sox may find themselves answering the question -- Kyle Schwarber or Seiya Suzuki?
There's cases to be made for each. Start with the known commodity. Schwarber provided everything the Red Sox could've asked for after arriving from the Nationals at the trade deadline. He transformed the lineup with his combination of patience and power from the left side, he showed a flair for the dramatic, and he seamlessly integrated into the clubhouse.
Schwarber is a winning player with a World Series ring and no fear of the big stage. In a market like Boston, where the outside noise can become deafening, unflappable players like Schwarber shouldn't be discarded simply because they lack prototypical defensive skills or are blocked for the time being at designated hitter. It took him only two months to prove that he fits here.
Suzuki, on the other, is attempting to make the leap from Japan. About 20 days remain in his posting process, which will resume whenever the players and owners agree on a new CBA, at which point the bidding should begin in earnest.
According to the Boston Sports Journal, the Red Sox are one of three American League East teams in hot pursuit of Suzuki, alongside the Yankees and Blue Jays. Suzuki isn't considered a can't-miss prospect in the mold of countrymen like Shohei Ohtani or Hideki Matsui, but he still boasts an impressive resume. He's a career .315 hitter in Japan's top league with three Gold Gloves and five All-Star appearances.
The 5-11, 182-pounder just hit .319 with 38 homers for the Hiroshima Carp, and he's known as much for controlling the strike zone (lifetime .414 on base percentage) and possessing a golden arm (13 assists last year) as for his power. He's clearly a better athlete than Schwarber, with the ability to play a high-level right field in the big leagues, per scouts.
So how do the Red Sox decide? Well first, they have to commit to not being outbid, which we have yet to see under disciplined chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom. Where once the Red Sox forced free agents to say yes, they're now very comfortable pushing back from the table with a simple no. It's entirely possible -- and maybe even likely -- that both players prove too expensive for Bloom's tastes and he turns elsewhere in search of a bargain.
But the Red Sox need to spend again at some point, and both players should cost roughly the same in total. Schwarber reportedly seeks a three-year, $60 million deal, while Suzuki is projected to go for something in the five-year, $50 million range, with an additional posting fee sent to Hiroshima.
Schwarber turns 29 in March and brings left-handed thunder to a Red Sox lineup that lacked left-right balance before his arrival. Suzuki, meanwhile, just turned 27 and is right-handed, though he naturally produces towering drives to left that could certainly play in Fenway Park.
Both come with questions. It's fair to ask if Schwarber is more than a four-month wonder, since his breakthrough strike-zone control is a recent development for the career .237 hitter. There's also the matter of his defensive shortcomings, since he did not take well to first base and he's an average outfielder at best. Signing Schwarber would mean giving him one year in the outfield and then shifting him to DH when Martinez's contract expires next fall.
Suzuki, meanwhile, could conceivably man right field for the next five years, but we have no idea how his game will translate to the U.S. The Padres gave Korean infielder Ha-Seong Kim a $28 million contract last year, for instance, and he hit .202. More than a decade ago, the Cubs signed Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome to a four-year, $48 million contract and he responded by making the All-Star team as a 31-year-old rookie before quickly fading. More recently, infielder/outfielder Yoshi Tsutsugo struggled to hit with the Rays and Dodgers before finding some success with the Pirates.
Suzuki arrives as a more heralded prospect than any of them, but he's no sure thing. He's never been asked consistently to turn around big-league velocity, and the cultural adjustment to America isn't always smooth, either.
The decision for the Red Sox may come down to the safer bet vs. the upside play. We know Schwarber can thrive here, even if he doesn't exactly have a position. Suzuki could be the next big star from across the Pacific, or he could be just another guy.
In any event, acquiring either one of them would significantly alter the perceptions of the Bradley-Renfroe trade and help explain why the Red Sox traded a starter for a likely backup.