The Red Sox have a surplus of outfielders without a powerful bat to show for it. There are a couple hanging out in free agency, but Boston has yet to act.
It's been reported Boston is taking calls for Masataka Yoshida, likely to spin him for one of the team's greater needs, like a powerful right-handed bat or a starting pitcher.
According to The Boston Globe's Alex Speier, the Sox have received "virtually no interest" in the outfielder. And Speier is attributing the lack of candidates to absorb Yoshida's hefty contract.
In 2023, Boston signed Yoshida to a five-year, $90 million contract. That's indeed a lot of money for many other teams, but for the Red Sox, $90 million for an international asset is just a drop in the bucket.
After the news broke that the Sox were taking calls for Yoshida this offseason, fans came out of the woodwork to complain about the quality of his rookie season in MLB, despite it being quite good.
The Red Sox received little to no interest in Masataka Yoshida this offseason
Yoshida only played in 140 games for the Sox, which may be where some of the gripes come from. In his 140 appearances, Yoshida batted .289 with 15 homers. His strikeout percentage was exceptional — Baseball Savant ranks Yoshida in the 93rd percentile in K percentage and in the 86th percentile for his whiff rate. Yoshida's ability to get on base cannot be denied.
Many of Yoshida's detractors take aim at his defensive capabilities, which makes more sense. Yoshida is not very fast and his arm strength is average.
But this was Yoshida's first season playing up against the Green Monster. There aren't too many fixtures like it in other ballparks. It was also his first season in a new country and with new teammates and coaches after spending his Nippon Professional Baseball career with the same club, the Orix Buffaloes, where he logged a .327 batting average over seven years.
Yoshida also began playing with the Red Sox after an incredible run in the 2023 World Baseball Classic with team Japan that resulted in a championship for his home country. And that championship came, in no small part, due to Yoshida's batting prowess. He set a record for most RBI in a single WBC and crushed a three-run homer to send his team to the final game against the U.S. No doubt, Yoshida was tired by the time spring training rolled around.
Understandably, other teams wouldn't be interested in Yoshida at this time and for his current price. Most other teams likely have their Opening Day left fielder set, and shopping for one that's likely more expensive isn't the best option in the current market.
The biggest mistake the Red Sox made regarding Yoshida was taking calls for him in the first place. Boston barely gave Yoshida a chance to succeed in a Red Sox uniform before trying to ship him somewhere else. There's no telling what their hopes were in terms of the return for Yoshida, but it was likely anything reasonable to get that money off the books.
Boston is already undesirable enough for new players and front office reps because of the organizations decision making — getting free agents to come and play for the Red Sox this offseason has been nothing short of a battle. The Red Sox attempting to trade one of their newest and most expensive players after a very good rookie season has likely already done more harm than good for the team's reputation, especially among future Japanese players coming to the MLB.
Signing Yoshida wasn't a mistake, but attempting to ditch him before he's had a real chance to prove himself was. And the fact he garnered little interest on the trade market might actually help the Red Sox in the long run.