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)

Former Red Sox reliever Matt Andriese takes his talents to Japan, signs with Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball

Former Red Sox reliever Matt Andriese has signed a one-year deal with the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball for the 2022 season, the team announced on Friday.

According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the contract is worth $2.1 million and includes up to $500,000 in potential incentives.

Andriese, 32, inked a similar one-year deal with the Red Sox last December that came with $2.1 million in guaranteed money. Boston signed the veteran right-hander with hopes that he could provide rotation depth and pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen when needed, though it ultimately did not work out in the end.

While Andriese may have taught fellow reliever Garrett Whitlock his changeup, the righty struggled to the tune of a 6.03 ERA and 4.70 FIP to go along with 38 strikeouts to 11 walks over 26 appearances spanning 37 1/3 innings of work in his time with the Red Sox.

On July 10, Boston placed Andriese on the 10-day injured list due to right hamstring tendinitis. He began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Worcester the following month, but was designated for assignment when the club needed to create space on its 40-man roster on August 17.

After clearing waivers and getting released by the Sox, Andriese latched on with the Mariners on Aug. 22 and pitched to a much-improved 2.45 ERA (1.81 FIP) in eight appearances (11 innings pitched) with Seattle.

That said, the Mariners removed Andriese from their 40-man roster when they called up top pitching prospect Matt Brash from Triple-A Tacoma in late September.

Andriese became a free agent once more heading into the off-season. Instead of signing a minor-league pact with another club, however, the California native opted to take his talents to Japan.

A veteran of seven big-league seasons between the Rays, Diamondbacks, Angels, Red Sox, and Mariners, Andriese does have some experience pitching overseas. The 6-foot-2, 215 pound hurler participated in the MLB Japan All-Star Series back in 2018.

If Andriese, who turns 33 in August, performs well with his new team in Tokyo, he could potentially look to make his way back to Major League Baseball next year.

(Picture of Matt Andriese: Patrick Smith/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)

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)

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)

Red Sox add right-hander Matt Carasiti on minor-league deal, per report

The Red Sox have signed free-agent right-hander Matt Carasiti to a minor-league contract for the 2021 season, according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford. The deal also includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Carasiti, 29, is a veteran of two major-league seasons — first with the Rockies in 2016 and then with Mariners in 2019 — and owns a lifetime 7.46 ERA and 4.83 FIP over 30 appearances (five starts as an opener) and 25 1/3 innings of work between the two clubs.

A native of Berlin, Conn., Carasiti was originally selected by Colorado in the sixth round of the 2012 amateur draft out of St. John’s University in Queens.

Across seven minor-league seasons between five different levels, the 6-foot-2, 205 lb. righty is 17-29 with an ERA of 4.26 and batting average against of .272 over 250 total appearances, 34 of which were starts, and 432 2/3 innings pitched.

He also has experience overseas, as he pitched for the Yakult Swallows of Nippon Professional Baseball in 2018 before coming back over to the states.

Around this time last year, Carasiti inked a minor-league pact with the San Francisco Giants only to undergo Tommy John surgery in March.

Per Bradford, the New England-born hurler recently held a workout for approximately nine clubs in Connecticut, leading to his signing with the Sox.

Based off data from Baseball Savant, Carasiti works with a sinker, a cutter, a forkball, and a changeup.

(h/t Chris Hogan for the video)

Carasiti will have the opportunity to further showcase this pitch mix while competing for a spot in the Red Sox’ Opening Day bullpen next month, though he will likely begin the year with Triple-A Pawtucket in more of a depth role.

So far this offseason, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have either signed or re-signed the following players to minor-league deals:

C Roldani Baldwin
C Jhonny Pereda
1B Joey Meneses
1B Josh Ockimey
INF Jack Lopez
INF Jeremy Rivera
OF Cesar Puello
OF Michael Gettys
OF Johan Mieses
LHP Emmanuel De Jesus
LHP Stephen Gonsalves
RHP Kevin McCarthy
RHP Seth Blair
RHP Raynel Espinal
RHP Caleb Simpson
RHP Zack Kelly
RHP Jose Disla
RHP Daniel Gossett
RHP Zac Grotz
RHP Jose Adames
RHP Matt Carasiti

(Picture of Matt Carasiti: John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Red Sox have ‘engaged in talks’ with former Rays left-hander Matt Moore this winter, per report

In their quest to shore up their starting pitching ahead of the 2021 season, the Red Sox are making sure to leave no stone unturned.

Plenty of names have popped up and been linked to the Sox in recent weeks, but there is one in particular this article will focus on: Matt Moore.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Boston has “engaged in talks” with Moore — among others — this winter.

The 31-year-old left-hander last pitched in the majors in 2019, making just two starts for the Tigers before suffering a meniscus tear in his right knee in early April that would eventually require season-ending surgery.

Prior to injuring his right knee, Moore had looked like he was on the rebound with Detroit after struggling mightily with the Giants and Rangers the previous two seasons. Over 10 scoreless innings of work, he yielded just three hits and one walk to go along with nine strikeouts in his first two outings as a Tiger.

That said, that knee ailment came at a rough time for the southpaw, as he would have to settle and sign a one-year deal with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan last offseason.

With the Hawks, though, Moore picked up where he left off in Detroit, posting a 2.65 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over 15 starts spanning 85 innings pitched in his first exposure to the NPB in 2020.

Taking that strong showing into consideration, it now appears as though the former All-Star is back on the scope of major-league teams.

The Athletic’s Peter Gammons tweeted earlier Tuesday that Moore “has become an intriguing free-agent” and is a “mid-rotation possibility for several clubs.”

Gammons added that Moore got up to 90-95 mph with his fastball velocity while getting his delivery back to a point where it is balanced.

Given the apparent intrigue in Moore from across baseball, it is understandable to see why the Red Sox would have interest here.

For starters, Moore, a Florida native, was selected by the Rays out of high school in the eighth round of the 2007 amateur draft, so there is an obvious Chaim Bloom connection there given the fact that the Red Sox’ chief baseball officer spent more than 14 years in Tampa Bay (2005-2019).

On top of that, as was mentioned earlier, the Sox find themselves in dire need of starting pitching help coming off a 2020 campaign in which the club’s starters put up a collective 5.34 ERA (second-worst in baseball) while working just 246 innings (second-lowest total in baseball).

Seeing how he hasn’t pitched a full major-league season in nearly three years, it’s hard to imagine that Moore’s asking price will be too high as he looks to reintroduce himself.

There certainly is some appeal here given the fact that he doesn’t turn 32 until June and, as noted by Cotillo, threw more innings (85) “than any big-leaguer during the shortened regular season.”

There’s also some things to be wary about with Moore, too. Such as the fact that he has a somewhat extensive history of injuries and has proven to be inconsistent at times.

All that being said, though, Bloom and Co. have not shied away from bringing in players they are familiar with so far this offseason.

Moore, who amassed 96 appearances (94 starts) as a member of the Rays from 2011-2016, meets that particular prerequisite. He also has some upside working with a pitch mix that includes a four-seam fastball, a cutter, a curveball, and a changeup, per Baseball Savant.

(Picture of Matt Moore: Adam Glanzman/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)

Red Sox ‘uninterested’ in exploring four-year deals for free-agent pitchers this winter, prefer ‘shorter-term deals of up to to two or three years in length’

Before coveted Japanese right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano returned to the Yomiuri Giants of the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization on Thursday, it appeared as though the Red Sox had at least some interest in signing the 31-year-old hurler before his posting period ended.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, “the Sox had some interest in Sugano – who possesses excellent command of a four-pitch mix anchored by a low-90s fastball along with a slider and splitter – but his asking price exceeded the team’s level of interest.”

This is mainly the case because Sugano was reportedly seeking out a contract of four years or more from interested clubs, which apparently goes against Boston’s philosophy when it comes to signing free-agent pitchers this offseason.

In other words, the Red Sox “have been uninterested in exploring deals of that length for pitchers” and “have been focused on shorter-term deals of up to two or three years in length this winter,” per Speier.

Free-agent righty Jake Odorizzi would seemingly fit that mold after The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported on Wednesday that the 30-year-old “expects to land a three-year contract in the $36 million to $42 million range” at some point this winter.

Aside from Odorizzi, who is familiar with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom from their time together in Tampa Bay, Speier notes that while top free-agent pitcher Trevor Bauer likely won’t garner interest from the Red Sox on account of his hefty price tag, the club is still very much in need of starting pitching help following a dismal 2020 campaign from its shorthanded rotation.

With that in mind, Boston may look into signing other veterans still on the market such as Corey Kluber or Rich Hill, both of whom reside in Massachusetts during the offseason.

Kluber, a two-time American League Cy Young Award winner, is expected to hold a workout — one in which the Red Sox will attend — for interested teams in Florida on January 13.

(Picture of Chaim Bloom: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)