It’s hard to imagine the Red Sox doing the Yankees a favor in free agency, but they did when they signed Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported the deal as being for five years, $85 million.
You’ll recall that I recently took a look at Yoshida, 29, and concluded that while risky, his upside was worth it. He hit 135 home runs and posted a line of .326/.419/.538 with a .957 OPS in seven years with the Orix Buffaloes. Yoshida also struck out just 307 times over that span, but there’s still a risk.
Let’s briefly recap. Since 1964, 19 Japanese hitters have made the jump from Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) to MLB. Of those 19, only three have made a lasting impact: Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, and Shohei Ohtani. Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki’s sample size is still too small to judge.
So where does that leave Yoshida? Well, he’s listed at 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, so his build is definitely more Ichiro. The combination of power and average suggests Matsui potential as well. Yet, we should also note that NPB has a universal baseball. MLB deadens and un-deadens the balls, juices and un-juices them, and everything in between. The players all know it, and some are even infuriated by it.
So what does this have to do with Yoshida and the Red Sox? Well, think of all the questions you might now have about his potential as a hitter, plus the money he’ll earn. The Red Sox also need to pay a $15 million posting fee to the Buffaloes, so their total investment is about $100 million.
$100 million for a hitter who certainly looks great on paper, but who plays a game that’s different enough in his home country that there will definitely be some adjustment to MLB.
At best, Yoshida is an insane Ichiro-Matsui hybrid and we forget this conversation ever happened. He goes on to have a great career. Maybe even be a thorn in New York’s side for five years.
At worst, though, he’s Andrew Benintendi with an $85 million price tag. Factor in Orix’s fee, and the Red Sox might have just paid $100 million for Benintendi.
In which case, the Yankees should be thanking Boston. Not only is the real Benintendi still a free agent, but general Brian Cashman would apparently “love” to have him back. Even better, he won’t cost $85 million over five years, plus a fee.
That said, let’s give the Red Sox New York’s sincerest thanks for taking the risk on Yoshida and saving #YankeesTwitter the potential stress.