Yoshinobu Yamamoto sent shockwaves through Major League Baseball last night, putting pen to paper on a 12-year, $325 million contract with the undisputed offseason champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
Some teams will be hit especially hard by Yamamoto's signing, especially both clubs in New York, but if the Red Sox have any self-awareness, they know they've been a dark horse for the Japanese hurler as he neared making his decision. Entering the offseason, the clear top priority for Craig Breslow and company was to acquire top of the rotation arms. Yamamoto's decision doesn't change that.
The Red Sox are also in somewhat of an identity crisis, lingering in this baseball purgatory. As currently constructed, they are not equipped to win now. Trading for a player such as Corbin Burnes in the last year of his contract without an extension in place would be foolish, and Boston's intentionality about re-stocking their farm system under Chaim Bloom indicates that they would prefer the free agency route over surrendering prospects. The situation is past a full-send rebuild, but Breslow hasn't yet committed to a win-now approach either. Boston needs to decide if they are a bridge team or if they want to compete now, and Red Sox fans may not like their answer.
Yamamoto's signing kicks off the next phase of the MLB offseason. Teams that were in on the Japanese pitcher and left empty-handed will now be forced to seek alternatives. Pitchers on the free agent market will also try to leverage the eye-popping figures of his contract in their own negotiations.
The Red Sox are another one of these teams that now have to regroup, re-strategize, and reevaluate the current free agency market in the wake of Yamamoto's signing. Here are five players that Boston must hone in on now that the Yamamoto domino has fallen.
5. Lucas Giolito
At this point, Lucas Giolito would undoubtedly be categorized as a consolation prize. The Red Sox whiffed on Yamamoto, and the 29-year-old right-hander is the third-ranked pitcher on this list alone.
Golito's upside is there: he finished sixth in the Cy Young voting in 2019, seventh in 2020, and eleventh in 2021. He threw a no-hitter with 13 strikeouts in 2020. When Giolito is on, he is on. Unfortunately, he hasn't been on in the last two seasons. His ERA ballooned to 4.90 in 2022, and last season he had the unfortunate distinction of becoming the first pitcher since 1899 to allow eight earned runs in a game...for three different teams.
Giolito could be viewed as a high-upside talent who has mixed in a few inconsistent seasons recently, or a player who has passed his prime and has lost the ability that once collected Cy Young votes. How Breslow and his front office decide to evaluate Giolito's career progression will be a crucial X-factor towards dictating their interest level.
Jon Heyman took the temperature on the interest in Giolito at the winter meetings, and reported that his contract should fall between $50 million and $80 million. That is a hefty price for a pitcher that could be on the back nine of his career. Giolito should be a last-resort type of signing.