The Mariners have joined the growing list of teams interested in Japanese star outfielder Masataka Yoshida, reports Jon Morosi of MLB Network. Morosi adds that the Mariners will be one of Yoshida’s “top suitors” this winter. However, Yoshida’s current team, the Orix Buffaloes, will have to finalize the terms of his posting agreement before the deadline on December 5th.
Yoshida slashed a robust .336/.449/.559 with 21 homers during the 2022 season, his fifth consecutive season with an on-base percentage greater than .400. His blend of contact and power has led to a lot of early interest in the 29-year-old, with Jon Heyman of the New York Post reporting that the Yankees are also looking at the left-handed hitter.
During the 2022 season, the Mariners primarily relied on an outfield trio of All-Star Julio Rodriguez and former All-Stars Mitch Haniger and Jesse Winker. That group was aided by utilitymen Dylan Moore and Sam Haggerty, former top prospect Jarred Kelenic, and Taylor Trammell. The Mariners also have 2020 Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis, who spent most of the season in Triple-A Tacoma. Of that group, only Haniger is a free agent, leaving Seattle with a deep outfield mix.
As noted by MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk, since Yoshida has not played enough to earn full free agency, the Buffaloes would have to agree to post their star outfielder and would be entitled to a posting fee based on Yoshida’s major league contract. Under the current MLB-NPB agreement, teams interested in Yoshida would have to pay the Buffaloes a fee equal to 20% of the contract’s first $25MM, 17.5% of the next $25MM, and 15% of any dollars thereafter. Once posted, Yoshida and his representatives will have only 30 days to negotiate a deal with MLB teams. If no agreement is reached during the 30-day window, Yoshida would have to return to the Buffaloes.
Recent players who made the jump from NPB to MLB include Cubs’ outfielder Seiya Suzuki. In Suzuki’s last season with the Hiroshima Carp, the righty slashed .317/.433/.636 which led him to a five-year, $85MM contract with Chicago. However, Suzuki was only 27-years-old when he transitioned to Majors and had posted an OPS north of 1.000 in three of his last four seasons with the Carp.