The Boston Red Sox might have a new ace in one Japanese star this season.
No, not that pitcher. We’re talking about Yoshinobu Yamamoto. The 25-year-old phenom is the biggest prospect since that famous two-way stud, Shohei Ohtani, which makes his availability to rosters a sweepstakes of its own.
DraftKings had early odds that showed the New York Mets as the favorite to land Yamamoto, with the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees trailing not far behind. The Red Sox came in fourth at +700, with the field at +900.
The Major League Baseball newcomer won three consecutive Sawamura Awards — the Cy Young of Nippon Professional Baseball — with a career 1.72 ERA in seven seasons and a record of 16-6 with a 1.21 ERA in 2023. The righty also took home his third straight MVP award this past season, tying legend Ichiro Suzuki for the most consecutive.
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With a contract possibly reaching at least $300 million, the investment for whatever team does take him on will be hefty. However, the return on investment outweighs any risk if what Yamamoto has displayed with elite command, consistency and a deep pitch mix translates to the majors. Not only can his fastball reach 99 mph. He also averaged over nine strikeouts and just two walks per nine innings in his NPB career.
Boston should jump at the opportunity to sign the young star given its need to bolster a rotation that finished last season with a bottom-10 4.52 ERA. Stretches of strong play at the plate will only take you so far, especially considering the competition in the American League East. Think about just the Yankees alone. That’s four series facing a lineup that starts with Juan Soto and Aaron Judge at the top and has Alex Verdugo in the No. 7 hole. You better have some arms to hold their own.
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In terms of where Yamamoto would want to go, Boston has the incentive of familiarity. Second-year outfielder Masataka Yoshida was not only teammates with Yamamoto for six seasons in Japan. He also was alongside him in the World Baseball Classic and while leading Samurai Japan to a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
Red Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow said the team was intent on being aggressive in the offseason, and a move like this would prove the new head of operations is a man of his word.