After a dismal year from a pitching standpoint (and several other standpoints, too), the Boston Red Sox are expected to make significant changes to both the starting rotation and bullpen.
For the first time in several years, they have the financial flexibility to make a splash in free agency. Will they spend that money on Kodai Senga?
Senga, whose first name has been spelled Koudai by some outlets and Baseball Reference, has a 2.59 career ERA over 11 seasons in the Nippon Professional Baseball league. He’s won two Golden Gloves and five Japan Series championships. He led his league in strikeouts in 2019 and 2020 and in ERA in the latter year. Over 22 starts spanning 144 innings in 2022, he posted a 1.94 ERA.
Will the Red Sox be the team to sign Kodai Senga?
Turning 30 in January, Senga is one of the hardest throwers available this offseason. His fastball exceeds 100 mph at times, and take a look at his splitter, which might have the most epic name in the game:
At the GM Meetings last week, Chaim Bloom had high praise for Senga:
"“Super talented, athletic, power stuff,” Bloom said. “Just a really impressive arm.”via MassLive"
There are some concerns, though. Making the move from one league to another is often difficult for players, and his command of breaking pitches has been described as inconsistent, which forces him to rely heavily on his splitter when he can’t harness the rest of his arsenal. Senga also missed time this year due to forearm tightness.
The Sox also have ample competition for Senga; various reports name the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers among his many bidders this offseason. He’s also a true free agent, so the team that signs him won’t have to pay a posting fee to his former NPB team.
Several Japanese players have found a home in Boston over the years and immense success with the Sox. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Okajima, and Koji Uehara all won World Series rings with the Sox. Of course, the same can be said about some of his other suitors. Senga is also reportedly good friends with Seiya Suzuki and they’re both represented by Joel Wolfe, something the Chicago Cubs will likely try to use to their advantage in the inevitable bidding war.
Boston is expected to make significant upgrades to its pitching staff this offseason, but it’s unclear how things will shake out. They currently have an abundance of starting pitching, though it’s unclear how effective this crew will be. There’s Nick Pivetta, James Paxton, Chris Sale, and Brayan Bello, Garrett Whitlock is reportedly moving back to the rotation, and Tanner Houck could be, too. The Sox also just extended a Qualifying Offer and multi-year offer to Nathan Eovaldi, someone to whom Senga has drawn comparisons. If they’re able to lure Senga to Boston, they’ll likely winnow down the starting options.