Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida was posted on Wednesday morning. This meant that MLB teams had 30 days to sign the free agent outfielder. The Boston Red Sox wasted little time and inked Yoshida to a 5-year, $90 million deal on Wednesday afternoon. Yoshida is 29 years old and brings a combination of speed and power with him to shore up the Red Sox outfield.
Yoshida, 29, is an on-base machine who led Nippon Professional Baseball in OPS the last two seasons. His bat-to-ball skills are absolutely world-class: just 41 strikeouts in 508 plate appearances, with 80 walks. Only Luis Arraez had a lower strikeout rate in MLB last season.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 7, 2022
Yoshida doesn’t have the typical frame of a player that we see hit for power, but his ability to put the bat on the ball will be a rarity in the major leagues. As Passan notes, he had 508 plate appearances last season for the Orix Buffaloes in Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan. With only 41 strikeouts, Yoshida is adept at putting the ball in play to all parts of the field. He has spent seven seasons in the NPB and is a career .327 hitter. Yoshida had a career 133 home runs, which averages out to 19 per year. Only one player had more than 19 home runs for Boston last season, and it was third baseman Rafael Devers, who had 27.
The bat of Yoshida should fit perfectly in the Red Sox’s lineup. The lefty will be able to take advantage of the short porch in right at Fenway as well as the Green Monster in left when he goes opposite field. Boston is currently trying to woo former shortstop Xander Bogaerts back to town, but if they are unsuccessful, Yoshida could offset that loss if he plays to his potential. If he brings his consistency with him to the Red Sox, don’t be surprised if he ends up leading off. Otherwise, Yoshida shouldn't fall past fifth in the team’s lineup, regardless of if Bogaerts is back.
Boston’s current outfield consists of Tommy Pham, Enrique (Kike) Hernandez and Alex Verdugo. If Bogaerts is back, there is a logjam of players in the outfield, which could see Hernandez or Pham heading to the bench. Pham got off to an incredibly slow start last season with the Cincinnati Reds, and if he repeats that, Yoshida could find himself taking over. If Bogaerts isn’t re-signed and the team doesn’t bring in a replacement, Hernandez can play shortstop outright, or he can man second, sending Trevor Story can go back to shortstop, and Yoshida can take over in the outfield that way.