The Red Sox have reportedly reached agreement on a two-year, major-league contract with Japanese reliever Hirokazu Sawamura, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.
Per Speier, who cites Japanese sports newspaper Sankei Sports, Sawamura’s deal is worth $2.4 million and could include more in additional incentives.
The veteran right-hander, who turns 33 in April, had pitched in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball Organization since 2011, most recently splitting time between the Yomiuri Giants and Chiba Lotte Marines in 2020.
To start out the campaign, Sawamura struggled with Yomiuri and put up an unsightly 6.08 ERA through his first 13 appearances and 13 1/3 innings of work on the year.
A midseason trade to Chiba Lotte turned things around for the 6-foot, 212 lb. righty, though, as he yielded just four earned runs on 10 hits, 10 walks, and 29 strikeouts over his final 22 relief outings and 21 innings pitched of 2020. That’s good for an ERA of 1.71 and WHIP of 0.95.
Sawamura has not started a game since 2015, so it seems likely that the Red Sox view him as a reliever moving forward.
Going off of that, Speier wrote: “Multiple evaluators saw Sawamura as at least a seventh-inning reliever, a pitcher who alternately dominates the strike zone with elite stuff and then loses the strike zone completely. Still, based on his peaks in the NPB, there’s a chance for an even more prominent late-innings role.”
Born in Tochigi, Japan, Sawamura’s pitch mix consists of a “high-octane fastball” that sits anywhere from 94-99 mph, “a hard swing-and-miss splitter” that sits in the low-90s, and a “below-average slider,” as noted by Speier.
Because he was an unrestricted free agent, Sawamura was not subject to the posting system between NPB and Major League Baseball. This means that the Red Sox do not have to pay Chiba Lotte a posting fee in order to acquire Sawamura’s services, which is something MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo pointed out on Sunday.
By reportedly signing Sawamura to a major-league contract, the Red Sox will have to clear a spot on their 40-man roster for the Japanese hurler. There will surely be more to come on that front.
(Picture of Hirokazu Sawamura: Sports Nippon/Getty Images)