SAN DIEGO — Here on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, it was a much-needed sunny day for the Red Sox on Wednesday.
It opened with early morning news that the Sox had a deal with closer Kenley Jansen for two years and $32 million. A short time later came word that the Sox had increased their offer to Xander Bogaerts and were making progress toward retaining their All-Star shortstop.
That is where it remains with Bogaerts. But the new momentum combined with the desire from both sides to make a deal should lead to a positive outcome.
As night fell, the Sox had an agreement in place with corner outfielder Masataka Yoshida, a career .326 hitter over seven seasons in Japan who was made available via the posting system earlier in the day.
The Sox, who had scouted Yoshida extensively, moved quickly once he became available. Yoshida has a five-year, $90 million deal and the Sox will pay an additional $15.37 million to the Orix Buffaloes as a posting fee in the largest major league contract ever for a position player from Japan.
Red Sox fans wanted action and they got it. In a span of roughly 12 hours chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom significantly improved the roster.
None of these deals are official and there are still moves to make. The Sox need another starter, more help in the bullpen, and a DH. But this is a promising start assuming the talks with Bogaerts result in an agreeement.
How are the Sox better? Let’s start at the end.
Jansen saved 41 games for the Atlanta Braves last season and averaged 12 strikeouts per nine innings. Outside of the first half of 2021 when Matt Barnes handled the job, the Sox haven’t had a reliable closer since Craig Kimbrel in 2018.
Jansen will allow manager Alex Cora to build his bullpen back from the ninth inning with Barnes, Chris Martin, Tanner Houck, John Schreiber, and Joely Rodriguez filling slots.
Yes, I am including Houck there. He is a two-pitch pitcher who isn’t afraid to throw a strike in a big spot. Houck profiles best as a reliever and the Red Sox will need a deep bullpen.
Chris Sale has pitched only 48 ⅓ innings the last three seasons and James Paxton 21 ⅔. If they’re both in the rotation Cora will be getting relievers ready in the fifth inning.
The same will be true for Garrett Whitlock, who is coming off hip surgery and will be used carefully as a starter.
Perhaps Houck will be tried again as a starter to pick up innings, especially early in the season as Sale, Paxton, and Whitlock build up.
Now let’s go to the top. The Sox had a .295 on-base percentage from the leadoff spot last season. It was a drain on their offense as eight different players were tried.
Yoshida struck out only 42 times in 508 plate appearances last season and had a .447 OBP for Orix. He puts the ball in play and has surprising power in a 5-foot-8, 176-pound frame.
He’s not particularly fast and doesn’t have a strong arm. But Yoshida can hit.
“He’s someone that we really like and spent a lot of time on,” Bloom said. “Really, really good hitter, quality at-bat. Great talent … The quality of the at-bat stands out.”
After two days of professing his desire to sign Bogaerts, I asked Bloom if he felt better about the situation now than he did two days ago when it appeared Bogaerts was slipping away.
“I don’t want to get further into it,” said Bloom, who was smiling widely. Interpret that as you will.
Cora was set to travel to Arizona on Thursday and planned to meet with several Sox players. Visiting with Bogaerts, who is working out in the Phoenix area, also was on his agenda.
If the Sox can wrap up a deal with Bogaerts, Cora has Yoshida as a good candidate to lead off then can mix in Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Trevor Story, Alex Verdugo, Triston Casas, and Kiké Hernández as he sees fit.
That’s a solid group which could be upgraded with a DH. How Eric Hosmer fits in remains to be seen. Bloom also has indicated he plans to use the trade market to upgrade the roster.
So much for caution. The Red Sox are back to throwing real punches.