Why Yoshida chose Sox: 'The best one of all 30 teams'

Japanese outfielder gives shout-out to 'Red Sox Nation' in introduction to Boston

December 16th, 2022

BOSTON -- Masataka Yoshida was honest in saying he’s not sure if leadoff is the right spot for him with the Red Sox. While that story will play out in the spring, what became apparent is that Yoshida knows how to lead off a press conference.

Fresh off signing a five-year, $90 million contract with the Red Sox, the Japanese outfielder displayed signs that he will enjoy the spotlight that comes from playing in Boston.

Yoshida’s first words as a member of the Red Sox came in English, despite him admitting he hardly has any fluency in the language.

It was a feel-good moment at a time the Red Sox -- recovering from the loss of Xander Bogaerts to San Diego -- needed one.

“I’m Masataka Yoshida. I’m 29 years old,” he told the audience. “I have played for the Orix Buffaloes for seven years. I don’t speak English. [I’m] so nervous. I want to learn English, and I want to speak it. I’m honored to be with Red Sox Nation. I’ll do my best. Thank you.”

Yoshida then turned over the English-speaking portion of the program to his interpreter, but he still came through with some more genuine comments to warm the hearts of Red Sox Nation.

Why did Yoshida -- who proudly donned a home white Red Sox jersey with No. 7 on the back of it -- pick Boston?

"Obviously, the Red Sox organization is the best one of all 30 teams," Yoshida said. “So that's why I chose it."

The Red Sox chose Yoshida because they believe his bat will translate nicely to the Major Leagues after a solid career with Orix, in which he had a line of .327/.421/.539 with 133 homers and 467 RBIs in 762 games.

What makes the Sox so confident?

"There is a foundation here to be able to do some things and be able to handle an at-bat a certain way,” said Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom. “The way the swing works, the way that he sees the ball -- those things do tend to translate really well for whatever environment the player is in."

The Red Sox wasted no time expressing their belief in Yoshida’s ability, agreeing to terms on a contract with him just hours after he was posted by the Buffaloes on Dec. 7.

Boston paid a $15.375 million posting fee to the Buffaloes based on the $90 million contract for Yoshida. The posting fee does not count toward Boston's Competitive Balance Tax payroll.

Bloom said the organization’s strong evaluation of Yoshida was a group effort, led by Gus Quattlebaum, the team’s vice president of professional scouting.

Interestingly, agent Scott Boras said the offer the Red Sox made was in perfect line with the valuation his corporation made.

“The way this went is we had an evaluation on Masa,” Boras said. “We literally had so many people who wanted to get on a Zoom call to get to know him. So I said, ‘We cannot do this. I’m going to have to develop the ZBO, the Zoom Buyout. You know the player. We’re going to put an evaluation of the player. If you want to get involved let us know.’

“We found out which teams were aligned with us in our evaluation and which teams weren’t. We also looked and said we’re going to go with Boston first because we felt the player could execute here well. Playing here, being a left fielder, suited him.”

Defense isn’t considered a strong suit for Yoshida. But with Fenway Park’s shallow left field, his lack of range can be minimized.

And speaking of that left field, Yoshida has a smooth swing from the left side that could lead to many baseballs banging off and perhaps going over the Green Monster.

"The Green Monster, it's really tall -- I was surprised,” Yoshida said of the baseball relic that stands 37 feet tall.

Exactly how Yoshida will fit in Boston’s lineup remains to be seen.

His ability to get on base -- he had a .447 on-base percentage last season -- makes him a potential option in the leadoff spot for manager Alex Cora.

“I haven’t experienced leading off,” Yoshida said. “That’s why I said maybe I don’t have confidence to hit as a leadoff hitter, but whatever they say, I’ll do. I’m going to play hard, that’s all. I just want to keep doing the same thing [as] what I did in Japan -- make good contact and get on base.”