For the second time this week, the Boston Red Sox gathered the media together at Fenway Park to introduce someone whom they hope will be a huge contributor, albeit on a big question mark of a team.
Masataka comes to Boston from Japan’s Nippon League, where he was a stellar hitter with impressive plate discipline. The Sox had made waves at last week’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, coming to terms with Yoshida mere hours after he’d been posted by the Orix Buffaloes. Their five-year, $90M offer – which also requires them to pay a $15.375M posting fee to the Buffaloes – is the largest ever for a Japanese position player.
At first, the signing drew rave reviews, though mostly from fans reading his stat line. Then, in an ESPN+ feature last week, Kiley McDaniel reported that executives and scouts around the league were shocked by the Sox’ offer, both because it came together so quickly (there’s a 45-day window once a player is posted) and because of the final numbers.
"“I sent texts around to a number of scouts and execs explaining what I thought his tools were (high contact, very good approach, average-ish power, limited defensive ability) and asking what I was missing between that scouting report and what the Red Sox paid,” McDaniel wrote. “‘Nothing,’” replied one international scouting director. “‘Overpay for me … too rich imo,’” from another scouting director. A third exec: “‘I have no idea.’” A fourth: “‘Nothing … I wish they and him luck.’” A fifth: “‘We thought he was worth less than half of what they paid.’” A sixth added, “‘I have no words.’”“In total, I spoke to ten sources in the aftermath of the signing and they all had a similar breakdown. They all had some level of appreciation for the player, but thought the Red Sox overpaid by a hefty margin.”"
On Thursday, Bloom took the opportunity to respond:
"“At the end of the day, we can’t worry about that. We have to be confident in our own evaluations. We did a lot of work on this guy, felt really comfortable that we had done enough work to feel confident where we were.If the only reason, at that point, not to do something is that you’re worried about taking criticism, it’s just not a good enough reason. I do know, and we’ve heard directly from a number of clubs, that we are not alone in our evaluation of Masa.”via Chris Cotillo"
There’s no doubt the Sox did their due diligence in evaluating Yoshida before Bloom gave him the second-largest contract of his tenure, and his numbers in Japan speak for themselves. However, an odd point of dissonance on Thursday was that Bloom and Yoshida don’t seem to be on the same page. During the presser, the exec spoke about the Sox’ belief that he can hit from the leadoff spot. On his end, Yoshida said that he hasn’t been the leadoff hitter before and isn’t confident about assuming the role, but will do his best if asked.
In Japan’s Nippon league, Yoshida was a career .327/.421/.539 hitter who hit at least .300/.400/.500 in each of his last five seasons. He’s been an All-Star four times in the last five seasons and the batting champion in 2020 and 2021.
The Red Sox are in dire need of consistent hitters, especially now that Xander Bogaerts is with the San Diego Padres and JD Martinez is a free agent. With Rafael Devers’ future uncertain as well, Yoshida is going to be under unfair pressure to keep hitting.