Yankees being linked to Japanese star could suggest big outfield shakeup


The first big “rumor” of the offseason as it pertains to the New York Yankees has officially arrived. Per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, the Bombers are “one potential suitor” for Japanese star outfielder Masataka Yoshida.

The current Orix Buffaloes slugger just won the Japan Series with his team and has a desire to play at “the highest level.” It’ll all come down to the Buffaloes posting him in free agency this offseason.

If that happens, the Yankees figure to be interested, which is a promising development. At the very worst, they’re getting a bit creative in their options to replace Aaron Judge, should he depart in free agency. At best, they’re going to be willing to spend more after re-signing Judge to a gigantic contract.

Scenario 1 isn’t exactly savory, but Judge leaving is a realistic possibility, so the necessary steps need to be taken to attempt to replace his productivity.

Scenario 2 shows they’re going to spend as much as it takes to get over the hump and return to the World Series after being absent since 2009.

Yankees Rumors: Japanese OF Masataka Yoshida an option for New York?

As for Yoshida, the two-time Japan Pacific League batting champ has been a force since debuting in 2016. In 781 games, he’s slashed .326/.419/.538 with 425 runs scored, 135 home runs and 474 RBI. The lefty slugger stands at 5-foot-8 and 176 pounds.

This past season he hit .336 with a 1.007 OPS, 21 home runs and 88 RBI in 121 games … but there are concerns about his play on the other side of the ball.

“Yoshida does come with significant defensive questions, however, as he’s a sub-par defender even in left field, which may limit both his potential suitors and his future playing time,” per CBS Sports.

This elicits a few more questions. Is Andrew Benintendi no longer being considered? Are the Yankees actually going to pay top dollar to downgrade defensively and take a chance on someone who’s never faced MLB pitching? How much are they willing to pay? Remember, comparable peer Seiya Suzuki earned an $85 million contract from the Cubs last offseason. Could this be a play to bring in more revenue from international markets?

As of this moment, the Yankees’ starting outfield consists of Aaron Hicks (left), Harrison Bader (center) and Oswaldo Cabrera (right) … and we’d hardly call that a solution since Hicks is naturally a center fielder and Cabrera is naturally an infielder.

What kind of a shakeup are we looking at with Yoshida in the picture? Hicks gone, Cabrera as a utility option off the bench, Judge back in right field, Bader in center, Benintendi returning to play left, and Yoshida as a fourth outfielder/DH option/Brett Gardner-type who plays 120 games per year? Or will it be Yoshida in left, Bader in center, Judge in right, Hicks on the bench, Cabrera as a utility player and Benintendi gone? Or will it be Yoshida/Benintendi in left, Bader in center, Cabrera in right, Hicks on the bench, and Judge gone?

We’ll take option No. 1, thank you very much. But right now, it seems the Yankees are getting ahead of as many options as possible, which fans have to feel somewhat confident about.