The Athletic

Right: The Red Sox bet big on Masataka Yoshida; Cubs sign Jameson Taillon and more

The Red Sox certainly made the choice to give Masataka Yoshida, an outfielder who has spent his career to date in Japan’s NPB, their first big spend of the offseason, signing him to a $90 million deal on five years – money they could have spent on Willson Contreras, who would have filled a greater need. Yoshida didn’t even make my top 50 free agents even though he was eligible because he’s an often-injured outfielder whose power in Japan seems unlikely to carry over to MLB.

Yoshida’s most notable attribute is his garish walking and batting numbers – he rarely bats, often choking on the barrel to just put the bat on the ball any way he can, and he walked more than he only struck in four consecutive years. , with 64 unintentional walks and 42 strikeouts in 2022. He hit .335/.447/.561 for the Orix Buffaloes last season, and .339/.429/.563 the year before, with 21 home runs in each of these two years.

Sure, we’ve seen plenty of hitters come from NPB to the majors and lose their homerun power somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. Seiya Suzuki hit 38 home runs for Hiroshima in 2021 and 14 for the Cubs last year. Kosuke Fukudome hit 31 and 34 in his best two seasons for Chunichi, then hit 37 homers in MLB … but it took him five seasons to do it. Yoshi Tsutsugo hit 44 and 38 home runs in his best two years in NPB, then hit 18 total in 182 major league games. NPB parks are smaller and the pitching is very different, not only in things but also in approach.

The undersized Yoshida (5-foot-8, 176 pounds) has an extremely short, punchy swing that favors contact over impact, almost like he’s playing peppercorn with infielders. Not only does this approach not lend itself to power, even extra base power, but it can also leave hitters vulnerable to pitchers who can enter with speed. Ichiro was legendary for his upside-down swing and ability to make good contact almost anywhere he threw, but we had a generation of hitters trying to emulate him, and no one was able to do it. He is not a runner and is likely restricted to left field. That leaves Boston’s investment entirely dependent on Yoshida’s ability to get on base, and it’s also likely to take a hit because pitchers aren’t going to pitch around a guy who doesn’t have the impact to hurt them with extra bases. Yoshida probably won’t hit much here, and that has some value, but he’s also likely to hit more here than there. That leaves the Red Sox with a guy basking at a pretty decent clip, probably in the .350-360 range, with no power, speed, or much defensive value. He might be a regular on some teams, but I think for a contender he might be better off as an extra outfielder — and if I’m right, that’s not a good deal for Boston. Considering the massive void they have behind the plate right now and the fact that Willson Contreras just signed for less than Boston spent on Yoshida (before the $15.4 million posting fee), I’m just confused.

• The Red Sox have also agreed to sign right-hander Kenley Jansen to a two-year, $32m deal, which is… very good. He’s no longer a Capital-C Closer, and that’s probably more money a year than he should have been getting, but that’s hardly going to sink the payroll, and if they’re more comfortable with a closer veteran, better to put him on a two-year contract than a longer contract. I guess Jansen gives them about two production wins in about 110 rounds over the two years, which is some downtime here and there for minor injuries. My guess is that Alex Cora will leave Jansen for the final three outs and use one of their best relief options for high leverage spots before then.

• The Cubs rotation right now is Marcus Stroman and a bunch of fourth/fifth type starters, so if they want to struggle in 2023 they had to go add one and probably two more starters who are better than Justin Steele/Adrian Samson Group. They got one of them on Wednesday in Jameson Taillon, signing the former Yankee and Pirate to a four-year, $68 million deal that values ​​him more as a third/fourth starter and gives the team some headroom. of maneuver to get by if he continues to see the improvement in his command. He’s a four-and-a-half pitch guy who came back from his second operation at Tommy John throwing more strikes than ever, also becoming a ground ball guy, although he may still be prone to home runs because that his command in the area isn’t great. He’s had plenty of injuries, including both operations and testicular cancer, but he’s been healthy for the past two years and is only 31 this year. The Cubs gave him almost exactly the deal I thought he should get, which I take no credit for, but I bet they see what I see – a solid mid-rotation guy who could still become more than that.

• The Cubs also signed Cody Bellinger to a one-year, $17 million contract. I really have no idea what to think of Bellinger at this point. His pitching choice is terrible, his swing is kind of the same as it always has been, but he looks a lot worse when swinging on bad pitches, and he’s giving the Cubs a first-man player. goal with an elite defense that can also play in the outfield. I hope they can fix it.

• The Mets have continued to add to their rotation with a two-year deal in left-hander José Quintana, who has rebounded dramatically in 2022 after five years of back-up work. Quintana used his switch more often last year, which made his four-seam much more effective, as he can still feel his curveball and throw just about anything for strikes. I think his home run rate is going to regress (up) toward average, but he could give the Mets league-average innings, or close to it, in fourth place and let them move Tylor Megill out of the rotation. into a swing role or be the extra guy if Justin Verlander or Max Scherzer needs an extra day.

(File Photo: Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)

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