Only one season into a five-year, $90 million deal that brought him stateside after seven years in Japan, Boston Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida found himself rather unexpectedly in trade talks this offseason.
In early January, Yoshida's name began to percolate in rumors. Jen McCarthy and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that Boston was not actively shopping the left-handed hitter, but rather "open to ways to restructure the outfield." The Red Sox outfield has already undergone some changes this offseason, with Alex Verdugo being offloaded to the Bronx and former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tyler O'Neill being acquired only a few days later.
Now, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reports Yoshida's contract is a major deterrent for any team that might have interest in acquiring his services.
Yoshida has four years and $72 million remaining on his contract that will take him through the end of his age-33 season. His lack of defensive ability became apparent last season as manager Alex Cora was eventually resigned to utilizing him nearly exclusively in a designated hitter role. Yoshida wouldn't offer his new team a lot of lineup flexibility, which has to also be diminishing his trade value.
Trading Yoshida would reflect poorly on Boston's front office regardless. Either the Red Sox swung-and-missed (pardon the pun) on a player lacking any MLB experience and made him their third-highest player, or it would be yet another salary-shedding measure in the aftermath of the front office's unfulfilled promise to splurge this offseason.
Yoshida had a productive first season and his contract should not be categorized anywhere near Rusney Castillo-esque, but he struggled immensely in the second half of the campaign.
It would have been reasonable to expect that his production would pick up following the All-Star break as he continued to adapt to MLB pitching, but quite the opposite actually played itself out. From August on, Yoshida only managed three homers and drove in 19 runs in his final 47 games.
Based on how the Boston front office has operated as of late, the ideal return for Yoshida would likely be young, high-upside, controllable contract talent. That philosophical approach was apparent in both the Alex Verdugo and Chris Sale trades.
It takes two to dance though, and without a partner willing to take on Yoshida's contract, it looks we will see him in the Opening Day lineup on March 28 in Seattle.
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