The Red Sox signed a potential key piece to their bullpen in Japanese righty Hirokazu Sawamura on Tuesday.
The deal is for two years, with a dual club/player option for the 2023 season. Sankei Sports reported that the deal will be worth $2.4 million. To make room for Sawamura, the club designated left-handed pitcher Jeffrey Springs for assignment.
From Hideki Okajima to Koji Uehara to Junichi Tazawa, the Red Sox have received invaluable contributions in the past from Japanese relief pitchers.
Sawamura has a chance to be the latest Japanese pitcher to play a big role in Boston, as he will help a late-inning crew that includes Matt Barnes, Adam Ottavino and Darwinzon Hernandez. The 32-year-old has a mid-90s fastball and also utilizes a splitter as a key weapon.
After struggling last season with the Yomiuri Giants and getting demoted to the Minor Leagues, Sawamura dominated after a trade to the Chiba Lotte Marines, notching a 1.71 ERA in 22 games.
In nine seasons in NPB, Sawamura pitched in 352 games, including 88 starts, and had a 2.77 ERA. He had spent his entire career with Yomiuri until last season’s trade. Sawamura had 73 saves over two seasons as the closer for the Giants.
The Red Sox are currently undecided at closer. There’s also a chance manager Alex Cora will mix it up in the ninth inning.
Barnes and Ottavino both have some closing experience. Some talent evaluators think that the 24-year-old Hernandez has powerful enough stuff to close.
The addition of Sawamura would give Cora another key option as he manages the late innings.