Red Sox have been in contact with Japanese right-hander Kodai Senga, per report

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)

Former Red Sox minor-leaguers Brian Keller, Johan Mieses close to signing with NPB’s Hanshin Tigers, per report

The Hanshin Tigers of Nippon Professional Baseball are expected to sign a pair of former Red Sox minor-leaguers in Brian Keller and Johan Mieses, according to Yahoo! Japan (and relayed by Yakyu Cosmopolitan on Twitter).

Keller, 28, was selected by the Red Sox in the minor-league phase of last December’s Rule 5 Draft. The right-hander was originally taken by the Yankees in the 39th round of the 2016 amateur draft out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He spent the first six years of his career in the New York organization and made it as far as Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before being scooped up by Boston a little more than 11 months ago.

After receiving an invite to major-league spring training, Keller broke camp with Triple-A Worcester in April. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound righty spent the entirety of the 2022 season with the WooSox and posted a 3.27 ERA and 3.76 FIP to go along with 126 strikeouts to 53 walks over 31 appearances (20 starts) spanning 113 innings of work.

Keller, who does not turn 29 until next June, operates with a five-pitch mix that consists of a 91-93 mph fastball that tops out at 95 mph, a low-70s curveball, a low-80s changeup, a cutter, and a slider. He became a minor-league free agent for the first time earlier this month. It is unclear if the Red Sox attempted to bring Keller back on another minors pact for 2023, but the native Wisconsinite will now try to make his mark overseas.

Mieses, on the other hand, first joined the Red Sox organization as a minor-league free agent in November 2019. The former Dodgers and Cardinals outfield prospect did not make his organizational debut until last May due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he proved to be a solid power source over the last two years.

Appearing in 60 games for the WooSox this past season, the right-handed hitting Mieses slashed a respectable .271/.387/.536 (144 wRC+) with 15 doubles, 12 home runs, 35 RBIs, 32 runs scored, five stolen bases, 32 walks, and 60 strikeouts across 230 trips to the plate. His 31 homers since the start of the 2021 campaign rank eighth among all Red Sox minor-leaguers, per FanGraphs.

Mieses, who turned 27 in July, became a minor-league free agent like Keller five days after the World Series ended. Rather than explore other opportunities in affiliated ball, the burly slugger elected to take his talents to Japan, where he helped his native Dominican Republic win a bronze medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics.

In addition to Keller and Mieses, it also appears that Hanshin is interested in former Red Sox reliever Phillips Valdez. Valdez was claimed off waivers by the Mariners in July and was outrighted off Seattle’s 40-man roster in October. He, too, is a minor-league free agent.

(Picture of Brian Keller: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Seiya Suzuki rumors: Several teams believe Red Sox ‘are lined up to make a move on Japanese outfielder’ when lockout ends (report)

Even in the midst of an ongoing lockout, the Red Sox still appear to be interested in Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki.

The Sox have been linked to Suzuki since he was posted by the Hiroshima Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball in November and remain locked in on the star free-agent nearly three months later, according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.

“Several teams believe the Sox are lined up to make a move on Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki when the lockout finally ends,” Abraham wrote on Saturday. “Suzuki is committed to playing in the majors, having decided not to remain with the Hiroshima Carp.”

Suzuki, 27, has spent the last nine seasons with Hiroshima. Most recently, the right-handed hitter batted .317/.433/.636 with 26 doubles, 38 home runs, 88 RBIs, 77 runs scored, nine stolen bases, 87 walks, and 88 walks over 132 games (533 plate appearances) for the Carp in 2021.

The Carp officially posted Suzuki on Nov. 22, giving MLB teams a little more than a week to negotiate with the four-time NPB All-Star before the lockout began on December 2. Since that time, Suzuki’s posting window has been paused, but it will pick up once the work stoppage ends, meaning clubs will have roughly three weeks to continue negotiating with his camp.

Despite the lengthy lockout, Suzuki — as Abraham mentioned — remains committed to playing in the major-leagues even though he could return to Japan for the 2022 season and test the free-agency waters again next winter.

Last month, Japan’s Nikkan Sports reported that Suzuki was planning to travel to the United States once the lockout is lifted to negotiate with interested teams in-person. That same report suggested that Suzuki was preparing to narrow down his list of suitors to three or four, noting that clubs with spring training facilities in Arizona may hold a geographical advantage over clubs with complexes in Florida (like the Red Sox).

A few weeks before that report came out, Suzuki himself told The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly that he has heard recruiting pitches from 10 to 12 teams and the Sox are among that group. He would not reveal his personal short list, though he did indicate that he had no preference for which league or coast he played on.

“I can’t stop thinking about which team to pick,” Suzuki said. “I’m going to be honest with you: I’m still very confused. I can’t sleep every night because a lot of the teams hit my heart. I still have to give it a lot of thought.”

Shortly before the lockout began, the Red Sox put themselves in a position where they could benefit from Suzuki’s services when they traded Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers for fellow outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and a pair of prospects.

By effectively swapping Renfroe for Bradley Jr., Boston shook up their outfield mix significantly in that they traded offensive production for defensive production. That being said, they also traded away a right-handed hitting outfielder for another left-handed hitting outfielder to join the likes of Jarren Duran and Alex Verdugo on the 40-man roster.

Since he possesses pop from the right side of the plate, Suzuki could in theory fill the void left behind by Renfroe and emerge as the Sox’ everyday right fielder. Going back to what chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said earlier this winter, the 27-year-old does fit the profile of a right-handed hitter the club might prefer to sign over a left-handed hitter.

Suzuki, who does not turn 28 until August, is about 2 1/2 years younger than Renfroe, who turned 30 last month. The former has drawn comparisons to the latter and may have an even stronger defensive profile seeing how he is a five-time recipient of the Mitsui Golden Glove Award.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 182 pounds, Suzuki is “expected to command a contract in the range of five years and $60 million,” per Baggarly. This does not take into account the compensation Suzuki’s new team would owe Hiroshima in the form of a release fee.

As things stand now, it appears as though the Red Sox have as good a chance as any club to land Suzuki once the lockout eventually ends. With some help from former Boston closer Koji Uehara, it just might happen.

(Picture of Seiya Suzuki: Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Ryan Brasier on former teammate Seiya Suzuki: ‘He’s a stud’

Before making a name for himself with the Red Sox in 2018, veteran reliever Ryan Brasier spent the 2017 season in Japan, pitching for the Hiroshima Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball.

In the process of posting a 2.34 ERA across 45 relief appearances (50 innings pitched) for the Carp, Brasier had the opportunity to make acquaintances with one of his teammates at the time in outfielder Seiya Suzuki.

Suzuki, then just in his age-22 season, slashed .300/.389/.547 with with 28 doubles, one triple, 26 home runs, 90 RBIs, 85 runs scored, 16 stolen bases, 62 walks, and 80 strikeouts over 115 games and 512 plate appearances with Hiroshima.

“The first time I saw him you could tell the ball came off his bat different,” Brasier said of Suzuki when speaking with WEEI’s Rob Bradford recently. “Throwing the ball from the outfield. … He’s just a hell of a player.”

Brasier also described Suzuki as “a stud” and as Hiroshima’s best hitter in 2017. The right-hander is currently preparing for his fifth season with Boston, and it seems as though he would not mind being teammates with Suzuki once again.

The Red Sox have been heavily linked to Suzuki since the Japanese-born star was officially posted by Hiroshima last month. He is coming off a 2021 campaign in which he batted .317/.433/.639 with 26 doubles, 38 home runs, 88 RBIs, 77 runs scored, nine stolen bases, 88 walks, and 89 strikeouts over 134 games (538 plate appearances) for the Carp.

Under normal circumstances, Suzuki, now 27, would only have until December 22 to sign with a major-league club. However, due to the lockout, the right-handed hitter will have approximately three weeks to negotiate with teams once Major League Baseball’s work stoppage comes to a close.

After trading Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers for Jackie Bradley Jr. and a pair of prospects last week, the Red Sox suddenly find themselves in need of a right-handed hitting outfielder.

Not only does Suzuki fit that bill, but the the 5-foot-11, 182 pounder is also an exceptional defender, as evidenced by his five Mitsui Golden Glove Awards. The fact that he hits for power from the right side of the plate and is a quality right fielder has actually led some, including Brasier, to compare him to Renfroe.

“Honestly, he kind of reminds me of Renfroe,” said Brasier. “He might be a little faster, and he might have a little better plate presence. But as far as a player with size and power and defense, he reminds me of Renfroe a little bit.”

Based off the level of interest, Suzuki is clearly one of the more coveted free agents in this winter’s class. His market could heat up on the other side of this lockout, but he is currently projected by MLB Trade Rumors to sign a five-year, $55 million contract, which does not take into consideration the posting fee Hiroshima would also receive.

That said, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. remain interested in acquiring Suzuki’s services. Earlier this week, Boston Sports Journal’s Sean McAdam reported that the Sox, Blue Jays, and Yankees “have been the most aggressive in [their] pursuit of Suzuki.”

It’s likely that Brasier has read these rumors or something similar to them, because the 34-year-old hurler seems more than open to reuniting with Suzuki stateside.

“When I saw they were in talks involving Seiya, I was like, ‘Oh man!’ He’s a good, good player,” Brasier said. “I would have zero problems with him being with the Red Sox, I will tell you that.”

(Picture of Seiya Suzuki: Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)

Red Sox among group of teams who ‘have been most aggressive in pursuit’ of Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki, per report

The Red Sox are one of three American League teams with with interest in Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki, according Sean McAdam of Boston Sports Journal.

Per McAdam, “one major-league source reports the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox have been the most aggressive in pursuit of Suzuki.”

Suzuki had been one of the more coveted free agents in this winter’s market prior to the anticipated work stoppage putting a freeze on transactions beginning December 2.

The 27-year-old was initially posted by the Hiroshima Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball on November 22, which — under normal circumstances — would have given him and his representatives up to 30 days to negotiate a contract with major-league clubs.

Because of the lockout, however, Suzuki’s posting window has been paused for the time being. Once the work stoppage eventually comes to a close, he would then have roughly 20 or so days to continue negotiating with MLB teams or otherwise return to Japan.

This past season marked Suzuki’s ninth with Hiroshima, and it was one in which the right-handed hitter batted .317/.433/.639 with 26 doubles, 38 home runs, 88 RBIs, 77 runs scored, nine stolen bases, 88 walks, and 89 strikeouts over 134 games (538 plate appearances) for the Carp.

In the wake of trading Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers for Jackie Bradley Jr. and a pair of prospects, the Red Sox very well find themselves in need of some outfield help, particularly from the right side of the plate.

As noted by McAdam, “Suzuki could play right field for the Sox, replacing Renfroe both defensively and as a productive right-handed bat.”

Not only has Suzuki enjoyed a great deal of offensive success over the course of his nine-year NPB career, but the 5-foot-11, 182 pounder is also a five-time recipient of the Mitsui Golden Glove Award.

By dealing away Renfroe and acquiring Bradley Jr. from Milwaukee, Boston has added another left-handed bat to an outfield mix that already consists of Alex Verdugo and Jarren Duran.

Suzuki, in turn, would provide the Sox with a talented right-handed hitter while simultaneously allowing the club to keep Verdugo in left field and Enrique Hernandez in center field if they so choose.

When speaking with reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) last week, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom addressed this very topic when discussing what Boston still needs to do when this transaction freeze ends.

“I do feel we still have room to add position players to this crew,” Bloom said. “Obviously swapping Hunter for Jackie does change the handedness of our group a little bit. So maybe the dial moves a little more toward a right-handed bat where before it might have been towards a left-handed bat. But there’s different ways it can come together with the versatility and flexibility that we have. So we’re going to keep looking to supplement.”

Regarded by many — including an evaluator McAdam spoke to — as “a difference-maker,” Suzuki is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to receive a five-year deal worth $55 million in free agency.

While signing Suzuki would not cost the Red Sox (or any other team) a draft pick, they would owe Hiroshima compensation in the form of a posting fee. Under the current agreement between Major League Baseball and NPB, this posting fee is equal to 20% of the first $25 million in guaranteed contract value, plus 17.5% of the next $25 million, plus 15% of any amount beyond $50 million.

(Picture of Seiya Suzuki: Yuichi Masuda/Getty Images)

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)

Seiya Suzuki, Japanese outfielder who Red Sox have ‘thoroughly’ scouted, to be posted next week (report)

Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki will reportedly be posted by the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball next week, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi.

Once posted, Suzuki would under normal circumstances have up to 30 days to negotiate with major-league clubs. However, because of the looming work stoppage, the 27-year-old and his representatives may only have until December 1 to talk with teams before the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires.

Per The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly, Major League Baseball and NPB were at one point “close to an agreement” in which the clock pertaining to Suzuki’s 30-day posting window “would be stopped in the event of an industry lockout.”

So, if Suzuki were to be posted under this scenario next Wednesday, for instance, he would then have approximately one week to negotiate with clubs before the impending lockout begins. On the other side of that, he would a little more than three weeks to talk with teams once the league and players’ association implement a new CBA.

If Suzuki has yet to sign a contract with a big-league club by the time his clock runs out, he would subsequently have to return to Hiroshima for the 2022 season.

Suzuki, who does not turn 28 until next August, is regarded as one of the top free agents in this winter’s class since he has already enjoyed quite a successful career in Japan.

This past season with the Carp, the right-handed hitter slashed .319/.436/.644 to go along with 26 doubles, a career-high 38 home runs, 88 RBIs, 77 runs scored, nine stolen bases, 88 walks, and 87 strikeouts over 133 total games spanning 535 plate appearances. He also helped Samurai Japan win a gold medal in the Olympic Games over the summer.

A native of Tokyo, Suzuki is a five-time NPB All-Star who has won four Gold Glove Awards for his defensive work in right field. The 5-foot-11, 182 pounder has primarily been an outfielder for Hiroshima since 2015 and has drawn comparisons to Braves All-Star Ronald Acuna Jr.

Earlier this month, WEEI’s Rob Bradford reported that the Red Sox were interested in Suzuki and have been “thoroughly” scouting the international star.

When broached about this topic during last week’s GM Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif., Sox general manager Brian O’Halloran would not get into the specifics, but said that “we scout all markets, including the international markets, very thoroughly.”

Any club — including the Red Sox — that manages to sign Suzuki before his posting period ends would then owe the Carp additional compensation under the current MLB-NPB agreement.

According to Morosi, “the Carp would receive a release fee equal to 20% of the first $25 million in guaranteed contract value, plus 17.5% of the next $25 million, plus 15% of any amount beyond $50 million.”

(Picture of Seiya Suzuki: Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)

Red Sox have ‘thoroughly’ scouted Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki, who is expected to be posted soon

Could the Red Sox be interested in signing Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki this winter? According to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, the Sox have “thoroughly” scouted the international star.

Suzuki is expected to be posted by the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball at some point this off-season, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported last Friday.

Per Morosi, Hiroshima has yet to formally announce that Suzuki will be posted, but the club is slated to do so once the Japan Series — which was pushed back because of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo — concludes later this month.

Assuming that Suzuki is posted by the Carp by the end of November, major-league teams would then have 30 days from the date of posting to negotiate a contract with the 27-year-old, who would not be subject to international signing bonus limitations since he is over the age of 25 and has more than six seasons of professional experience.

This past season with Hiroshima, Suzuki slashed an impressive .319/.436/.644 to go along with 26 doubles, 38 home runs, 88 RBIs, 77 runs scored, nine stolen bases, 88 walks, and 87 strikeouts over 133 games and 535 plate appearances.

When the 2021 NPB season was paused on account of the Olympics, the right-handed hitter helped Samurai Japan win a gold medal in their home country that was capped off by a dramatic 2-0 victory over Team USA on August 7.

In addition to what he has done at the plate, Suzuki is well renowned for his defense, as the five-time NPB All-Star is also a four-time recipient of NPB’s Gold Glove Award for his work as a right fielder.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 182 pounds, Suzuki does not turn 28 until next August. Morosi notes that he has drawn comparisons to Braves star outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. because of his “patience, power and base-stealing acumen.”

On the flip side of that, FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen analyzed that Suzuki “has plus power that comes from a dip-and-rip style of hitting, where he just sort of collapses his back side and tries to pull the ball with power as often as possible.

“Suzuki is at his best when he’s getting his arms extended on pitches well out over the plate,” Longenhagen continued, “but he tends to foul off or swing under fastballs creeping in on him.”

As far as contract projections go, FanGraphs has Suzuki netting himself anywhere between $40 million to $45.2 million over the span of a four-year deal. MLB Trade Rumors, on the other hand, projects that the Tokyo native will receive a five-year, $55 million contract on the open market.

Any deal Suzuki signs with a major-league team would have to include a posting fee as a way to compensate the Carp. As noted by Morosi, Hiroshima “would receive a release fee equal to 20% of the first $25 million in guaranteed contract value, plus 17.5% of the next $25 million, plus 15% of any amount beyond $50 million” under the current agreement between Major League Baseball and NPB.

It is unclear at this point just how serious the Red Sox are about pursuing Suzuki as a free agent. Boston’s outfield picture for 2022 already appears crowded with Alex Verdugo, Enrique Hernandez, Hunter Renfroe, J.D. Martinez, and Tim Locastro under club control heading into next season.

That said, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has made it a point of emphasis in his tenure with the Red Sox to cast a wide net when it comes to constructing a big-league roster, so Suzuki should at the very least be on Boston’s radar for the time being.

(Picture of Seiya Suzuki: Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)

Red Sox reliever Hirokazu Sawamura puts together first perfect outing of spring; ‘You can tell he feels more comfortable,’ Alex Cora says

Pitching in a game that was broadcast on NESN for the first time this spring, Red Sox reliever Hirokazau Sawamura put together what was without a doubt his most impressive outing with his new team thus far.

Coming into Wednesday night’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles, the Japanese right-hander having allowed two earned runs on three hits and seven walks through his first three appearances and 2 1/3 innings pitched of the spring. That’s good for an ERA of 7.71.

After Nathan Eovaldi recorded the first 17 outs on Wednesday in pretty simple fashion, Red Sox manager Alex Cora departed from the third base dugout to give the veteran starter the hook in favor of Sawamura.

With the bases empty and one out to get in the top half of the sixth, the 32-year-old got that out by getting Tyler Nevin to ground out to first to retire the side.

An inning later, Sawamura came back out for the sixth, marking the first time this spring he was going to be used in multiple frames. The righty did not miss a beat, though, as he proceeded to punch out both Rio Ruiz and Pat Valaika before inducing a groundout off the bat of Ramon Urias to end things there.

All in all, Sawamura needed all of 23 pitches to get four outs en route to picking up his second hold of the spring.

Since signing a two-year, $3 million deal — which includes a dual club/player option for 2023 — with the Sox back in February, it’s fair to say the past few weeks have been an adjustment period for Sawamura.

Not only is he dealing with a new country and new culture, but he is also adjusting to a style of baseball in the United States that differs from what he had grown accustomed to in the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization overseas.

That being said, Sawamura, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, is clearly starting to find his footing with the Sox. Wednesday’s performance marked his second consecutive scoreless appearance out of the Boston bullpen, and it also marked the first time all spring he did not allow a single base runner.

The fact he worked multiple innings for the first time indicates just how vital he could be for Boston’s pitching plans in 2021.

“That was important,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of getting Sawamura into a multi-inning appearance. “He’s going to have to do that during the season. And you can tell he feels more comfortable. He’s been able to throw his slider for strikes. Today was his best fastball out of all the outings. The split is still a work in progress. Little that we knew. We thought we had a fastball up, split guy. Now he’s developed a slider all of a sudden. And it’s a really good one. He can throw it for strikes and expand. We just wanted to see that and he did an outstanding job.”

Known for his fastball and splitter combination during his time with the Yomiuri Giants and Chiba Lotte Marines over the course of a 10-year career in Japan, Sawamura figures to emerge as late-inning option out of the Sox’ bullpen for Cora once the regular season begins.

Before Opening Day, though, the next step for Sawamura will be to pitch on back-to-back days, which should happen soon according to pitching coach Dave Bush.

“We’re trying to encourage him just to get comfortable and go one step at a time,” Bush said earlier Wednesday afternoon. “Each outing has been better than the previous one… He’s going to have back-to-back appearances coming up soon. Offhand, I don’t know the exact days, but it will be soon. He’s built up well. He’s getting better each time and is on the right path.”

The two-year contract Samura signed with the Red Sox over the winter does include a unique dual option for a potential third year in 2023, and it also includes escalators and bonuses that could take its total value up to $7.65 million.

(Picture of Hirokazu Sawamura: Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Red Sox make Hirokazu Sawamura signing official, designate Jeffrey Springs for assignment

The Red Sox have officially signed right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura to a two-year contract that includes a dual club/player option for the 2023 season, the team announced Tuesday.

In order to make room for Sawamura on their 40-man roster, Boston also designated left-hander Jeffrey Springs for assignment.

According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Sawamura will earn $3 million over the next two seasons with the chance to earn a total of $7.65 million over the next three years if he “hits every performance bonus and escalator.”

Rosenthal also described Sawamura’s option as “conditional and complex,” and seeing how it is a dual club/player option, that would fit said description.

Expanding on that, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo tweets that Sawamura will earn a base salary of $1.2 million in 2021 and a base salary of $1.2 million in 2022 that can escalate up to $1.7 million.

As for Sawamura’s dual option for 2023, Cotillo adds that if its a club option, it’s worth anywhere between $3 and $4 million depending on escalators. If the Red Sox decline that, the option then becomes a player option worth anywhere between $600,000 and $2.2 million depending on escalators.

For this year alone, Sawamura will count as a $1.2 million hit against Boston’s competitive balance tax threshold.

The soon-to-be 33-year-old hurler had been pitching in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball Organization since 2011, mostly for the Yomiuri Giants.

This past season, Sawamura got off to a tough start with Yomiuri and was ultimately dealt to the Chiba Lotte Marines as part of a midseason trade between the clubs.

Once he arrived in Chiba City though, things turned around for the better for the Japanese-born righty.

Across 22 relief appearances spanning 21 total innings of work, Sawamura posted a dazzling 1.71 ERA and 0.95 WHIP to go along with 29 strikeouts and just 10 walks.

Sawamura’s pitch arsenal consists of a 94-99 mph four-seam fastball, a swing-inducing splitter, and a below-average slider.

With his new club, Sawamura figures to slide into a late-inning role alongside the likes of Matt Barnes, Adam Ottavino, Ryan Brasier, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Josh Taylor.

As for Springs, the 28-year-old southpaw was designated for assignment 13 months after the Red Sox acquired him from the Texas Rangers in exchange for infielder Sam Travis.

In his debut season with Boston, Springs produced a 7.08 ERA and 4.81 FIP over 16 relief outings and 20 1/3 innings of work in two stints with the club.

That being said, there was a stretch from August 31 through September 23 of last season in which the North Carolina native thoroughly impressed to the tune of a 2.53 ERA and 2.39 xFIP over nine appearances out of the Sox’ bullpen.

Considering the fact he still has three minor-league options remaining, it would not be all that surprising to see another team take a chance on Springs through waivers.

Having said that, the Red Sox will have seven days to either trade Springs, release him, or try to sneak him through waivers themselves.

On another note, Boston’s 40-man roster is back at full capacity, so there will be another move to make in order to accommodate the signing of Marwin Gonzalez, which should be made official in the coming days.

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