After finding initial success with Masataka Yoshida, the Boston Red Sox reportedly are keeping an eye on the Japan native's former teammate.
The Red Sox were one of eight teams with a scout in attendance to watch pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto's latest start for the Orix Buffaloes of the Nippon Professional Baseball league in Japan, according to the Japanese news outlet Hochi News.
Yamamoto, who turns 25 in August, is already one of the NPB's best players, much less pitchers; he earned Pacific League MVP honors in both 2021 and 2022 while also capturing the Triple Crown by leading the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA.
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Yamamoto is putting up video game numbers this season for the Buffaloes with a 1.66 ERA, 101 strikeouts and just 12 walks through 92.1 innings. He was Buffaloes teammates with Yoshida for six seasons from 2017 to 2022, so it's possible the Red Sox are already familiar with the hard-throwing right-hander after scouting Yoshida last offseason.
While many Japanese stars don't make the leap to Major League Baseball until their late 20s or early 30s, Yamamoto is expected to be "posted" by Orix this coming offseason, meaning MLB teams can bid for his services starting in 2024.
Given his stellar resume, Yamamoto should command plenty of interest on the open market, but the Red Sox showed a willingness to pay up for Yoshida by handing him a five-year, $90 million contract, and they certainly have a need at pitcher: Boston enters the MLB All-Star break ranked 24th in starter ERA at 4.67.
Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has been mostly unwilling to hand out big contracts to outside free agents during his four-year tenure, but perhaps he'll make an exception for Yamamoto this winter.