As spring training approaches, the Red Sox are reportedly close to making their signings of right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura and utilityman Marwin Gonzalez official.
Here are some notes on each of those players’ situations regarding their pending contracts with Boston.
Hirokazu Sawamura: According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Sawamura’s deal with the Red Sox is good for $3 million over two years with a “conditional and complex” option for a potential third year. The contract could also grow to $7.65 million over three years thanks to performance bonuses and escalators.
Sankei Sports of Japan originally reported last week that Sawamura had reached agreement on a two-year deal with Boston worth $2.4 million.
The 32-year-old righty (33 in April) has spent the entirety of his professional career, which dates back to 2011, pitching in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball Organization.
Most recently, Sawamura split the 2020 season between the Yomiuri Giants and Chiba Lotte Marines. And while he was not particularly sharp with Yomiuri, the 6-foot, 212 lb. hurler turned things around for the better upon arriving in Chiba City via a midseason trade.
Over 22 appearances and 21 innings pitched out of the Marines bullpen, Sawamura dazzled by posting a 1.71 ERA and 0.95 WHIP while striking out nearly three times as many hitters as he walked (29:10 K:BB ratio).
Working with a four-seam fastball that sits anywhere from 94-99 mph, a whiff-inducing split-finger fastball, and a so-so slider, Sawamura figures to play a key role in Boston’s bullpen puzzle in 2021.
“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,” The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier wrote of Sawamura on February 10. “Still, based on his peaks in the NPB, there’s a chance for an even more prominent late-innings role.”
Marwin Gonzalez: Earlier Monday, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo tweeted that Gonzalez is getting a straight-up, one-year deal with Boston worth $3 million for the 2021 season. No options or anything of the sort, though he could earn an additional $1.1 million in performance bonuses based off number of plate appearances.
That, of course, would take the total value of the contract up to $4.1 million.
Cotillo adds that Gonzalez, who turns 32 next month, is expected to arrive in Fort Myers for his physical at some point this week, though poor weather conditions in the southern part of the United States (i.e. Texas) may delay his arrival.
Once he does make his way to the Fenway South complex and passes his physical, though, Gonzalez’s deal with the Sox will become official.
As noted by Cotillo, the former Astro and Twin could be “slated for significant work in the outfield while also serving as a left-handed hitting complement to Bobby Dalbec at first base” in the wake of the trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals.
Over the last two seasons with Minnesota, Gonzalez slashed .248/.311/.387 with 20 home runs and 77 RBI in 167 total games played while seeing time at every defensive position besides pitcher, catcher, and centerfield.
The versatile Venezuelan’s best year in the majors came with Houston in 2017, when he clubbed a career-best 23 homers and drove in 90 RBI over 134 games.
He finished 19th in American League MVP voting that year, and will now be reunited with his former bench coach in Red Sox manager Alex Cora.
In order for the Red Sox to make the additions of Sawamura and Gonzalez official, they will need to find a way to clear two spots on their 40-man roster, which is currently at full capacity.
(Picture of Hirokazu Sawamura: Sports Nippon/Getty Images)