Seiya Suzuki set to join Yoshitomo Tsutsugo and Shogo Akiyama in NL Central

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 given to a Japanese player without MLB experience, trailing only Masahiro Tanaka’s seven-year, $155 million contract with the New York Yankees in 2014.

Speaking at the Cubs’ Arizona spring training facility, 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 as Japan’s other two MLB position players and his former Samurai Japan 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 playing 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.”

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