The Red Sox have been in contact with the representatives for Japanese pitcher Kodai Senga, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported on Monday.
Senga, who turns 30 in January, has drawn widespread interest from MLB teams this winter and is viewed as one of the top free agent starting pitchers on the market. The hard-throwing right-hander is represented by Joel Wolfe, who told NBC Sports Chicago’s Gordon Wittenmyer earlier this month that his client “has a great deal of interest in being in a big market” playing for a contender.
Boston represents one of the larger media markets in the major-leagues, as does New York City. The Yankees, like the Red Sox, have made contact with Senga’s representatives, per Morosi. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal previously reported that Senga has already met with the Mets, as well as the Padres and Rangers. The Blue Jays, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, and Mariners are also believed to be interested in the righty’s services.
A native of Gamagori, Senga spent the first 11 seasons of his professional career with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball after debuting with the club as a 19-year-old in 2012. The 6-foot, 178-pound hurler posted a 1.94 ERA with 156 strikeouts to 49 walks over 22 starts (144 innings) in 2022. For his career, he owns a lifetime 2.59 ERA to go along with a 28.2 percent strikeout rate and a 9.3 walk rate across 224 outings (1,089 innings) at Japan’s highest level.
Equipped with a four-pitch mix that consists of a high-90s fastball, a low-90s cutter, a low-80s slider, and a plus splitter, Senga opted out of his contract with the Hawks and became a free agent in October. Because of that opt-out decision, Senga is not subject to the NPB-MLB posting system.
The Red Sox have had past success when it comes to signing Japanese-born pitchers. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Okajima, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara all played significant roles on World Series-winning teams during their respective times in Boston.
Under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, the Red Sox have been linked to several Japanese pitchers — such as Kohei Arihara and Tomoyuki Sugano — in recent offseasons. Last February, right-handed reliever Hirokazu Sawamura joined the Sox on a multi-year deal and spent the majority of the last two seasons in Boston’s bullpen before being released in September.
“Without getting into any specific player, it is a market where we’re very engaged,” Bloom said at the GM meetings in Las Vegas earlier this month. “I think we’ve shown over the years, well before I was here, that this organization, for a lot of reasons, is really well-positioned to support a Japanese player both from what we can provide from a staff standpoint and environment. Players who have played here coming over from the NPB will speak to that and have been allies for us telling players how awesome it is to play in Boston.”
It remains to be seen just how interested the Red Sox are in Senga, who Bloom described as “just a really impressive arm” with “super talented, athletic, power stuff.” MLB Trade Rumors projects that the 29-year-old will receive a five-year deal in the range of $75 million from whichever team signs him.
According to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, the Red Sox have scouted Senga “heavily” in recent years. Over the weekend, The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier reported that the club was “unlikely to enter the bidding” for the top four free agent starters in Justin Verlander, Jacob deGrom, Carlos Rodon, and Chris Bassitt.
Given his projected price tag, Senga wound seemingly fit a need for the Red Sox, especially if Nathan Eovaldi signs elsewhere in free agency. As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, though, Boston already has several other rotation candidates on their roster at the moment.
With the likes of Nick Pivetta, Brayan Bello, Chris Sale, James Paxton, Garrett Whitlock, and Tanner Houck vying for spots, Senga would have to come in and compete for a spot of his own if he were to sign with the Sox, who are still interested in bringing back Eovaldi, Rich Hill, and Michael Wacha.
Taking all that into consideration, it seems likely that the Red Sox will have a better understanding of Senga’s market once the Winter Meetings get underway in San Diego next month.
(Picture of Kodai Senga: Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)