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Marlins add Tazawa to 'pen with 2-year deal

MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

MIAMI -- Unable to sign a big-ticket closer, the Marlins redirected and landed an established reliever accustomed to high-leverage situations. On Friday night, Miami announced the completion of a deal with former Red Sox right-hander Junichi Tazawa.

MLB.com confirmed the deal is worth $12 million.

MIAMI -- Unable to sign a big-ticket closer, the Marlins redirected and landed an established reliever accustomed to high-leverage situations. On Friday night, Miami announced the completion of a deal with former Red Sox right-hander Junichi Tazawa.

MLB.com confirmed the deal is worth $12 million.

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"The goal is always to try to put together the deepest bullpen we can, and a bullpen with different looks and different ways to get people out," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "With Junichi you see someone who has pitched in the very competitive American League East and has a varied repertoire of weapons to get hitters out. We thought it would be a good complement to the existing bullpen."

The Marlins noted at the Winter Meetings that Tazawa was a free-agent target, and negotiations picked up in recent days. The 30-year-old will earn $5 million in 2017 and $7 million in '18.

Tazawa becomes the second Japanese player in franchise history to sign with the Marlins after outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who is entering his third season with the organization.

"We did do our research [on Tazawa] with Ichiro in advance," Hill said. "He signed off and that was good to know."

Tazawa, who broke in with the Red Sox in '09, went 3-2 with a 4.17 ERA this past season. In 53 appearances, he had 54 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings.

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The Marlins have devoted much of their offseason attention on building depth for the back of the bullpen. They made a strong push for the top two free-agent closers, but came up short as Aroldis Chapman signed with the Yankees, and Kenley Jansen returned to the Dodgers.

"I wouldn't use disappointment by any stretch of the imagination," Hill said about losing out on Chapman and Jansen. "Our goal was always to build the deepest bullpen we could. We know there's competition for players. You have a plan A, but you have a plan B, C and D to accomplish your goal. As we set forth on our offseason, we knew some things were less likely to happen and we needed to be prepared accordingly. We'll continue to monitor the market and see if there are ways for us to continue to upgrade our roster."

In his career, Tazawa has appeared in 302 games with 308 strikeouts over 312 innings. Tazawa's average four-seam fastball velocity, per Statcast™, was 93.27 mph in '16, which was slightly above the MLB average of 93.04.

The Tazawa announcement came the day after former Marlins left-hander Mike Dunn signed with the Rockies. Miami could open '17 with a bullpen that doesn't have a lefty.

The way it's shaping up, the Marlins have A.J. Ramos as closer, with Kyle Barraclough and Tazawa as options for the seventh and eighth innings. David Phelps is an option to work any of the late innings, and perhaps even close if Ramos is not available.

Dustin McGowan, who re-signed with the Marlins on Monday, is a long-relief candidate.

The Marlins continue to monitor the reliever market. Among their multi-inning candidates are Trevor Cahill and Joe Blanton.

"If we had to play right now, we're able to play," Hill said about the possibility of further significant acquisitions before Spring Training. "I'm very comfortable with what we've been able to accomplish in the offseason. There are still a number of attractive options in the marketplace and we will continue to explore to see if something fits."

But as it stands, Hill likes his bullpen.

"I'm very excited with how our bullpen looks," he said. "We wanted to create as much depth and talent and versatility and give Donnie [manager Don Mattingly] as many options as possible to potentially shorten the game."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Miami Marlins, Junichi Tazawa