Sure enough, the Red Sox chose to give Masataka Yoshida, an outfielder who’d spent his career so far in the Japanese NPB, his first big spending offseason, signing him to a five-year, $90 million deal — money they could have spent on Wilson Contreras, who was It will fill a larger need. Yoshida didn’t even make my top 50 free agent, though he would have been eligible, because he’s often an injured player and it seems unlikely that his powerhouse production in Japan will transfer to MLB.
What distinguishes Yoshida most is his flashy walk and hitting numbers—he rarely hits hard, often chokes on the barrel just to put the bat on the ball any way he can, and he’s walked more hits in four straight years, with 64 unforced walks and 42 strikeouts in 2022. 335/.447/.561 for the Orix Buffalo last season, and .339/.429/.563 the year before, with 21 homers in each of those two years.
Of course, we’ve seen a lot of NPB hitters come into the big leagues and lose their home run somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. Seiya Suzuki hit 38 homers with Hiroshima in 2021, and 14 for the Cubs last year. Kosuke Fukudome hit 31 and 34 in his two best seasons with Chunichi, then hit 37 homers in MLB…but it took him five seasons to do that. Yoshi Tsutsugu hit 44 and hit 38 in his two best years in the NPB and then hit 18 in 182 major league games. NPB parks are smaller, and the promotion is very different, not just in stuff but in approach.
The smaller Yoshida (5-foot-8, 176 pounds) has a very short, sexy swing that favors contact over impact, almost as if he’s playing pepper with the guys. Not only does this approach not lend itself to power, even extra power, but it also can leave batters vulnerable to pitchers who can get in quickly. Ichiro was legendary for his inside-out swing and ability to make good contact just about anywhere, but we’ve had a generation of hitters try to emulate him, and no one has been able to do it. He is not a runner and may be limited to the left. This leaves Boston’s investment entirely dependent on Yoshida’s ability to hit base, and he will likely take a hit as well, since pitchers won’t revolve around a man who lacks influence to hurt them with extra bases. Yoshida probably won’t be showing up much here, which has some value, but he’s also likely hitting more here than he did there. This leaves the Red Sox with a man getting a base at a decent enough clip, probably in the . 350-360 range, without much power, speed, or defensive value. He might be a regular on some teams, but I think for a competitor he might be better suited as an extra player – and if I’m right, it’s not a good deal for Boston. Given the huge void they have behind the plate right now, and the fact that Wilson Contreras just signed for less than what Boston spent on Yoshida (before his $15.4 million publishing fee), I’m a little confused.
• The Red Sox also agreed to sign Kenley Jansen to a two-year, $32 million deal…good. He’s not a Type C closer anymore, and that’s probably more money a year than he should have been getting, but it’s hard to sink the payroll, and if they’re more comfortable with a veteran, it’s better to get him in for two years than a longer deal. . My guess is that Jansen gives them about two production wins in about 110 innings pitched over the two years, which accounts for some time here and there for minor injuries. I assume Alex Cora will let Jansen in the last three rounds and use one of their better relief options for high leverage areas before that.
• The Cubs rotation right now is Marcus Stroman and a 4th/5th set, so if they want to compete in 2023, they need to add one and maybe two more starting pitchers better than the Justin Steele/Adrian Samson combination. They got one of their own on Wednesday at Jameson Tylon, signing the former Yankee and Bretts to a four-year, $68 million contract that he values like a third/fourth player and leaves the team some room to come out forward if he continues to see improvement in his drive. He’s a four-and-a-half-year-old who’s back from his second Tommy John surgery and has thrown more batters than ever before, and he’s a grounder as well, though he’s still prone to homers because his in-zone drive isn’t. amazing. He’s had a lot of injuries, including two surgeries and a bout with testicular cancer, but he’s been mostly healthy the past two years, and he’s only 31 this year. The Cubs almost gave him the deal I thought he should have, which I didn’t get any credit for, but I bet they see what I see – a tough guy in the middle of the turn that can become more than that.
• The Cubs also signed Cody Bellinger to a one-year, $17 million deal. I really have no idea what to make of Bellinger at this point. His pitch selection is horrible, his swinging is the same as ever but he looks a lot worse when he swings on the wrong pitches, gives the Cubs a first baseman with elite defense and can also play the field. I hope they can fix it.
• The Mets continued to add more rotations with a two-year deal with lefty Jose Quintana, who bounced back big in 2022 after five years working at the replacement level. Quintana has used his changeup a lot in the past year, which in turn has made his four seam more effective, while he can still get a whiff of his curveball and throw just about everything for strikes. I think his home run rate will fall (up) to average, but he could give the Mets some mid-league, or close to it, innings in the fourth and allow them to move Tylor Megill out of rotation into a swinging role or to be the extra man if Justin Verlander or Max Scherzer needed an extra day.
(File photo: Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)