Multiple MLB insiders say Red Sox, star Japan pitcher are linked

Red Sox

One of the most sought-after free agents available this offseason is being connected to Boston.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto is projected to ink a contract worth over $200 million with an MLB team this winter. Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Yoshinobu Yamamoto is one of the hottest pitching prospects of the offseason, and the Red Sox are in desperate need of an ace pitcher.

So, it’s no surprise that Boston has already reportedly scouted him this year, and now they’re being linked together. The New York Post’s Jon Heyman posted on X on Saturday that Boston and star Japan pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto are connected.

MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand also recently listed the Red Sox as a “potential fit” for him, along with the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets.

Yamamoto, the ace of the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball, will most likely be posted for MLB teams and become a free agent this offseason.

Last month, BetOnline projected Boston as having the fifth-highest odds of signing Yamamoto this winter.

The 25-year-old tossed a gem in Game 6 of the Japan Series between his Buffaloes and the Hanshin Tigers on Friday. Yamamoto threw nine complete innings, struck out 14 batters, allowed nine hits, one earned run, and zero walks on 138 pitches in Orix’s victory to force Game 7.

In the regular season, Yamamoto logged a 16-6 record with 169 strikeouts and a 1.21 ERA. He allowed just six more walks (28) than earned runs (22) in 2023, good for a 0.884 WHIP over 164 innings. The 5-foot-10 right-hander hurled two no-hitters this season, as well. These feats earned him Japan’s Sawamura Award, which is the NPB’s Cy Young equivalent.

Feinsand says Yamamoto is projected to slot into a rotation as a No. 1 or 2 pitcher with a MLB team, something the Red Sox could use heading into the 2024 season. 

Boston does not currently have a true No. 1 starter on their roster. Brayan Bello experienced some ups and downs in his rookie season and showed he isn’t ready to step into that role yet. Tanner Houck’s 5.01 ERA through 21 starts this year was not ace material and Chris Sale’s injury-plagued career in Boston continued into 2023. Signing Yamamoto would instantly make him the team’s top pitcher and likely an Opening Day starter.

Yamamoto, of course, won’t be inexpensive. The Athletic’s Tim Britton projects the pitcher to ink a seven-year, $203 million contract in free agency. The organization that signs Yamamoto will also have to pay a posting fee to the Buffaloes. A $200 million deal makes that fee $31.875 million, for example.

The Red Sox went over the luxury tax in 2022 but remained under it this year. The team should be looking to spend on free agents this winter to improve their roster for 2024.

Boston’s new chief baseball officer Craig Breslow inferred in his introductory press conference that he might be more willing to spend compared to his predecessor, Chaim Bloom.

“I don’t see financial resources as a limiting factor,” Breslow said. “There is a relentless interest in winning from all parties here.”


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