Red Sox sign Uehara to two-year deal
Closer, who turns 40 in April, to be paid $18 million over two seasons
BOSTON -- Perhaps it was fitting that the Red Sox announced a two-year extension with closer Koji Uehara on Thursday, considering it was the one-year anniversary of the righty striking out the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter for the final out of the clinching Game 6 of the World Series.
With Uehara back in the fold for a couple of more years, the hope is that he can once again be the last pitcher standing in October.
The Red Sox were undeterred by Uehara's late-season slump, and feel fully confident it was just a matter of fatigue, and not a sign of decline for a pitcher who will turn 40 next April.
"So we had a chance to obviously examine Koji at the end of year and spend quite a bit of time talking to him and looking at what happened in late August and early September," said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington. "After that, we really felt comfortable with where he was and where he will be going forward from a health and performance standpoint."
The deal is for $18 million, meaning the Red Sox will pay considerably less in average annual value than they would have if Uehara had been given a one-year $15.3 million qualifying offer by Monday's deadline. Cherington was pleased to be able to strike a deal during Boston's period of exclusivity with its closer.
"We've seen Koji get the best hitters out in baseball for several years now, and at the most crucial times," said Cherington. "We were able to look at the entire body of work, and obviously he's been an elite performer out of the bullpen for us for two seasons and a critical part of our bullpen, and we're glad to have him back. And it's an important first step in our offseason, we believe."
Uehara, 39, was 6-5 with a 2.52 ERA and 26 saves in 64 appearances that included 53 games without allowing a run in 2014. He struck out 80 and walked only eight over 64 1/3 innings while also becoming a first-time American League All-Star.
Signed as a free agent by Boston in December 2012 to a two-year, $9.25 million contract, Uehara has a 1.75 ERA in two seasons, which is the best mark in club history (minimum 75 innings).
Despite his age, the Red Sox think Uehara is in position to keep performing at a high level.
"I think we consider all of those things when we're talking about a deal like this or with any player," said Cherington. "You just look at all the variables and all the possible factors and the sort of risk factors. In this particular case, we feel comfortable obviously with a two-year commitment, and that's really driven by his remarkable consistency of performance, not just with us, but prior to being with the Red Sox.
"You're really looking at a guy who has been one of the elite relievers in baseball for several years, and again, based on our evaluation at the end of the year and what we did, we did not see any reason why that can't continue. He keeps himself in remarkable shape. He's a very diligent worker, a very hard worker. He knows exactly what he needs to do to get ready to pitch."
Uehara had a 1.09 ERA with 21 saves in 24 chances, and he set an AL record with 44 perfect outings in his 73 appearances to help the Red Sox win the World Series in 2013.