5:37 p.m.: Yoshida gets $90 million guarantee, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post (Twitter link).
5:33 p.m.: It’s a five-year deal worth over $85 million, reports Passan (on twitter).
5:32 p.m.: The Red Sox agree on the outfielder Masataka Yoshidareports ESPN’s Jeff Passan (Twitter link). The Japanese star was made available via the posting system just last week.
Yoshida lands the highest guarantee of any positional player making the leap from Nippon Professional Baseball to the majors. The record was only set by last spring Seiya Suzuki, who has inked a five-year, $85 million deal with the Cubs. Perhaps not coincidentally, Yoshida will top that by a million dollars a year.
It’s a massive gamble for the Red Sox, but one they’re willing to take to add some much-needed help outfield. Yoshida has been one of the more accomplished hitters in Japan in recent seasons. He has performed at NPB for the past seven years and carries a career line of .327/.421/.539. The left-hander has hit base in more than 40% of his plate appearances in each of the last six seasons and surpassed 1,000 OPS for the first time in 2022. Yoshida hit .335/.447/.561-508 trips to court that year.
The 29-year-old has demonstrated exceptional bat-to-ball ability in Japan and has outpaced himself for four consecutive years. Last season’s grades were particularly impressive, as he had almost twice as many free passes as punchouts. Yoshida walked out with a massive 15.7% clip while fanning just 8.1% of his plate performances. He’s certainly not expected to maintain such impressive ratings in MLB, where the quality of pitcher’s repertoire is consistently higher. However, the Red Sox are confident he will carry much of those elite skills on base, presumably as a top-of-the-lineup option for skipper Alex Cora.
Plate discipline is Yoshida’s primary goal, but he also brings a fair amount of extra base pop. He has hit 21-plus home runs in four of the last five years and has won 20-plus doubles five years in a row. He has never hit 30 longballs in a season, although he has consistently been a threat for 20-plus homers in Japan.
Suzuki had a stronger track record from the power perspective, hitting 30 home runs and blasting 38 twice in his final NPB season. However, Suzuki did not have Yoshida’s elite record discipline metrics and posted roughly equal strikeout and walk numbers in his final two years. Yoshida brings a different profile to Suzuki, but the Red Sox clearly believe he’ll jump in as an above-average offensive player at the MLB level. Suzuki found instant success for what it’s worth — hitting .262/.332/.433 in his first season in Chicago.
Yoshida needs to be on the plate to be productive as he doesn’t offer much defensive value. He is generally considered an MLB-level left fielder. This was an important area of need for Boston, which came in today Jarren Duran at the top of the depth map. The former frontrunner has just one .219/.269/.354 line in 335 MLB plate appearances over the past two years. He’ll be bumped into fourth outfield duty or back to Triple-A Worcester, and it stands to reason the Sox could at least consider the possibility of treating Duran to add MLB help elsewhere on the roster.
Boston’s investment goes beyond the contract value as they also owe the Orix Buffaloes compensation. Under the MLB-NPB agreement, an MLB team that signs a sent player owes a fee to the player’s former NPB. That depends on the value of the contract itself, with the booking fee being 20% of the first $25 million of the contract, 17.5% of the next $25 million, and 15% of all additional dollars. With a $90 million guarantee, that equates to paying the Buffaloes $15.375 million. The total investment by the Red Sox is $105.375 million.
There’s more to come.