Red Sox fans discouraged by Craig Breslow’s subdued start to the 2023 offseason received a spark of hope over the weekend.
Even though Boston hasn’t broken the bank so far this winter as it tries to rebound from yet another last-place finish in 2023, the Red Sox remain involved in the sweepstakes surrounding Japanese phenom Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
Several franchises with deep pockets like the Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, and Mets remain on the prowl for Yaamamoto’s services. But multiple reports over the last few days tabbed Boston as putting its money where its mouth is as far as the ace righty.
Former general manager and current MLB Network analyst Jim Bowden reported over the weekend that the Red Sox and Giants have both offered Yamamoto multi-year contracts worth “more than $300 million.”
On Saturday, baseball analyst Marino Pepén posted on X that the Red Sox have offered “just over” $300 million for Yamamoto, “with causes and incentives convenient for both parties.”
But even if the Red Sox remain interested in adding a star pitcher like Yamamoto to their rotation, ESPN’s Jeff Passan poured some cold water over the notion that Boston and other teams have exchanged numbers at this point with Yamamoto and his representatives.
During Passan’s latest piece detailing the 25-year-old pitcher’s rise as one of the most hyped free agents in recent memory, he noted that all of the reported $300 million bids for Yamamoto have been inaccurate, with teams being asked by Yamamoto’s camp to not exchange terms just yet.
“Multiple high-ranking officials trying to sign Yamamoto told ESPN that teams were asked to give a preliminary bid at the start of the process to ensure they were serious — but not necessarily in the neighborhood of where the deal is likely to land,” Passan wrote. “Since then, those officials say, his agent, Joel Wolfe, has not solicited a new round of bids.
“Some teams, sources said, were interested in talking dollars recently but were asked not to do so yet; the expectation is that teams will start proposing contract terms as early as Monday.”
$300 million — or more — contract “increasingly likely” for Yamamoto
Even if the Red Sox have not formally put a $300 million offer on the table for Yamamoto, Boston might have to do so in the coming days if it realistically wants him to put pen to paper.
Even though Yamamoto has yet to throw a pitch against MLB competition, it’s “increasingly likely” that Yamamoto will receive a contract in that $300 million range, according to The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal.
“He could sign a seven-year deal and hit free agency again at 32,” Passan added of Yamamoto’s options in free agency. “He could target a 10-year contract but request an opt-out after the fourth season and be back on the market at 29. Teams could try to lock him up to a lifetime deal– a dozen years or more — that would dampen the competitive-balance-tax hit by lowering the average annual value of the contract.”
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Yamamoto already met for a second time with both the Mets and Yankees over the weekend.
“The actual bidding process is supposed to intensify this week with the expectation of a deal being finalized before the new year,” noted Sherman, adding that MLB teams have until 5 p.m. on Jan. 4 to sign Yamamoto under the current rules.
Yamamoto, who has played his entire pro career with the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), would be a major lift to a Red Sox pitching staff that labored throughout the 2023 season.
In 2023, Yamamoto won his third straight Sawamura Award — the NPB equivalent to the Cy Young Award — after posting a 1.21 ERA, a 0.884 WHIP, and 169 strikeouts over 164 innings of work.
Since turning pro in Japan in 2017, Yamamoto is 70-29 with a 1.82 ERA, striking out 922 batters in 897 innings. He has also won three straight Pacific League MVPs.
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