Red Sox reach agreement with Japanese reliever Hirokazu Sawamura on two-year deal, per report

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)

Red Sox making progress on deal with Japanese reliever Hirokazu Sawamura, per report

The Red Sox are making progress towards a major-league deal with Japanese right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Per Cotillo, “it’s unclear if the sides have agreed to terms yet, but things certainly seem to be trending in that direction.”

Sawamura, who turns 33 in April, has since 2011 spent the entirety of his professional career in the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization , most recently splitting the 2020 season between the Yomiuri Giants and Chiba Lotte Marines.

Over 35 total relief appearances with the two clubs, Sawamura initially struggled to the tune of a 6.08 ERA with Yomiuri, but turned things around for the better after gettind dealt to Chiba Lotte midseason.

In 22 outings out of the Marines bullpen, the 6-foot, 212 lb. righty posted a 1.71 ERA, a 0.95 WHIP, and a 29:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 21 innings of work. He also recorded one save and 13 holds.

As noted by Cotillo, Sawamura has not started a game in Japan since 2015, so he would likely be slated for a spot in the Red Sox’ bullpen if he were to sign with the club, which seems just about imminent at this point.

Going off another point Cotillo made, Sawamura is currently an unrestricted free agent, so he is not subject to the posting system between the NPB and Major League Baseball.

Put another way, Boston — or any other team — does not have to pay Chiba Lotte in order to acquire Sawamura’s services this offseason.

A native of Tochigi, Japan, Sawamura’s pitch arsenal consists of a high-velocity fastball, a low-90s splitter, and a slider, per MLB Trade Rumors’ Anthony Franco.

The fact that the Sox are in on someone like Sawamura does not come as much of a surprise given the club’s interest in other international free agents (Ha-Seong Kim, Kohei Arihara, Tomoyuki Sugano) this winter.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom addressed the international market for free-agent pitchers when speaking with WEEI’s Rob Bradford and Jon Meterparel back in late December.

“I think it’s more difficult in a sense than it is with a pitcher who has pitched a lot domestically, where you just have more information,” Bloom said when asked about evaluating talent overseas. “But, that doesn’t necessarily mean a pitcher from that market is an unwise investment. I think… there’s a lot more unknowns when you’re bringing someone over to compete in a different league, on a different schedule than they’re used to competing. But, baseball’s baseball. We have a number of examples, including in this organization, of guys coming from that market and having success. I think we have, as an industry, a decent ability to predict how they’ll do. So, that’s a market I think we need to involve ourselves in just like any other.”

(Picture of Hirokazu Sawamura: Sports Nippon/Getty Images)

Former Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo heads to Japan, signs with NPB’s Rakuten Golden Eagles

UPDATE: Per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, Castillo will earn a base salary of $600,ooo with Rakuten with the chance to earn up to $1 million in incentives.

If there was any chance that former Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo would return to the major-, or minor-, leagues in 2021, those hopes officially went out the window on Saturday.

That being the case because the 33-year-old Castillo inked a contract with the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization, per a team statement.

Castillo originally signed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with Boston back in 2014. That contract ran out in November, making the Cuban-born outfielder a free agent.

Upon signing with the Sox in August 2014, Castillo got the chance to make an impact almost immediately, as he made his major-league debut on September 17.

In a brief, but impressive, first exposure to big-league pitching, the right-handed hitter posted a solid .333/.400/.528 slash line to go along with two home runs and six RBI over 10 games and 40 plate appearances through the end of the 2014 season.

That led many to believe that the Red Sox may have indeed found something in Castillo, but that turned out to not be the case for reasons that were very well out of his control.

After appearing in 80 games in 2015, Castillo received very little playing time the following year.

In the wake of an 0-for-3 showing against the Orioles on June 16, Castillo was placed on waivers, where he went unclaimed before getting outrighted from Boston’s 40-man roster on June 20.

From there, Castillo was essentially left in purgatory with Triple-A Pawtucket.

He put up decent numbers in an everyday role with the PawSox (career .761 OPS with 42 homers over 1,973 plate appearances), received invites to major-league spring training year in and year out, and ‘received consistently strong marks for his work ethic and commitment to prove that he didn’t belong’ in Triple-A, yet could never get the call back up due to his contract.

Put another way, as long as the Red Sox kept Castillo off their 40-man roster, his hefty contract would not be counted towards the team’s luxury tax bill.

So, that left Castillo in a spot where all he could really do was ride out his deal in Pawtucket. And he did so while keeping his apartment in Boston, too.

Upon becoming a free agent over the fall, Castillo signed on with Aguilas de Mexicali of the Mexican Pacific Winter League. He is currently slashing .250/.333/.288 with three doubles, six RBI, and three stolen bases over 22 games, per Baseball Reference.

With Rakuten, Castillo will wear the No. 12. In a statement released by the Golden Eagles, the veteran outfielder says, “I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a member of the Rakuten Eagles and am very much looking forward to playing in Japan. I hear that NPB is a great league, and above all, I love the disciplined culture of Japan.”

As noted by MLB Trade Rumors‘ Mark Polishuk, if Castillo finds success in Japan, it should be interesting to see if he has any major-league opportunities awaiting him next winter.

(Picture of Rusney Castillo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)