If Red Sox are looking internationally for bullpen help, Hanshin Tigers closer Robert Suarez should be on their radar

Like most clubs, the Red Sox will be looking to upgrade their bullpen in various ways this winter.

Of the 29 non-position players who made at least one relief appearance for the Sox this past season, only 11 remain on the team’s 40-man roster as of this moment.

While The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier wrote on Saturday that the Red Sox “are looking to upgrade their bullpen,” he also noted that they “likely won’t limit their search to familiar names” and are instead “expected to look internationally for help.”

As alluded to by Speier, the Sox have been active in the international market since Chaim Bloom took over as chief baseball officer two years ago. Most notably in this case, Boston signed veteran reliever Hirokazu Sawamura out of Japan to help fill out their bullpen for the 2021 season.

This off-season, the Red Sox seem primed to once again dip their toes into international waters — while also remaining active within the traditional free agent reliever pool — in order to upgrade their bullpen.

How will Bloom and Co. go about addressing this area of need? Well, this piece in particular will focus on one potential free agent target in Hanshin Tigers right-hander Robert Suarez.

Suarez, 30, began his professional baseball career in the Mexican League in 2015, but signed with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball that November and has spent the last six years in Japan.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2017, Suarez later signed with Hanshin in December 2019 and has enjoyed quite a bit of success in his two seasons there.

Most recently, the native Venezuelan posted a miniscule 1.16 ERA and 0.77 WHIP to go along with 58 strikeouts to just eight walks over 62 relief appearances spanning 62 1/3 innings of work in 2021.

Operating as Hanshin’s closer, Suarez led NPB’s Central Division in saves (42) while also striking out 25.3% of the batters he faced and walking just 3.5% of them.

When he first joined the Tigers in 2019, Suarez became a free agent at the conclusion of the 2020 campaign. He then re-signed with the club on a two-year deal that included a player option for 2022, which would allow him to become a free agent again this winter.

Earlier this month, Yahoo! Japan reported (and Sung Min Kim, formerly of FanGraphs and The Athletic, relayed) that Suarez was ‘garnering interest’ from multiple Major League Baseball teams.

At present, it’s unclear if the Red Sox are one of the teams inquiring about Suarez, who turns 31 in March. However, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, the 6-foot-2, 210 pound hurler “is still not technically a free agent just yet.”

If and when the time comes that Suarez does become a free agent this off-season, one would have to think that more information regarding potential suitors and such will become available.

In the interim, the Red Sox will undoubtedly be exploring all options available to them when it comes to improving their bullpen and the rest of their roster.

(Picture of Robert Suarez: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

Author: Brendan Campbell

Blogging about the Boston Red Sox since April '17. Also support Tottenham Hotspur.

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