New York Yankees eyeing stud Japanese outfielder as free agency begins

Alexander Wilson
Masataka Yoshida, yankees
Aug 4, 2021; Yokohama, Japan; Team Japan outfielder Masataka Yoshida (34) hits a single against Korea in a baseball semifinal match during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Yokohama Baseball Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees have a few big decisions to make this off-season, notably in the outfield, with Aaron Judge and Andrew Benintendi hitting free agency. Of course, retaining Judge is the team’s No. 1 priority, but there could be a few different solutions in left field.

Bringing back Benintendi, an established outfielder with plenty of experience, makes the most sense, but general manager Brian Cashman could turn his focus to a Japanese outfielder with tremendous offensive upside.

Masataka Yoshida, currently featuring with the Orix Buffaloes in the Japan Pacific League, could be posted to join the MLB next season, and the Yankees are reportedly interested in his services.

According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, Yoshida could be a good fit in pinstripes, especially with the team’s vacancy in left field.

What would Masataka Yoshida bring to the New York Yankees?

Yoshida is a 29-year-old outfielder with a fantastic lefty bat. At 5’8″ and 176 pounds, he hit .335 with a 44.7% on-base rate and a .561 slugging percentage during the 2022 season. He played 119 games, smoking 21 homers with 88 RBIs, but his elite contact capabilities are what make him so intriguing.

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Notably, Yoshida posted a 15.7% walk rate and an 8.1% strikeout rate, which is simply unheard of. His ability to make contact with the baseball and mitigate strikeouts is a variable that many teams will salivate over. He’s capable of leading off or featuring at the top of any MLB batting order, which is why the Yankees could offer him a sizable contract. While he’s not an elite defensive player by any means, e is serviceable but headlines the best contact hitters in the game.

Considering he’s 29 years old, a three-year contract could be right up the Yankees’ alley, but there will be other teams bidding for his services, notably the Philadelphia Phillies, who expressed interest.

If the Yankees were to retain Judge and land Yoshida, they can utilize Oswaldo Cabrera as their primary utility piece in both the outfield and infield. If the team ultimately trades Gleyber Torres, either DJ LeMahieu or Oswaldo can supplement, so the Yankees wouldn’t skip a beat in that sense.

The Yankees are seemingly turning their attention toward players who get on base and make contact with the ball at an extremely high rate, which is why Masataka fits the bill. However, he also has underrated power, hitting 21 homers this past season. Given his lefty bat, he may be able to build upon that number with a short right porch in Yankee stadium.