Million Dollar Arm: Looking back on the Boston Red Sox presence in Asia
Oct 30, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Junichi Tazawa catches the ball to force out St. Louis Cardinals designated hitterAllen Craig
(not pictured) in the seventh inning during game six of the MLB baseball World Series at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
In recent years, the Red Sox have taken a more conservative approach in their Asian scouting efforts. The 2006 signing of Hideki Okajima was a case study of focused restraint, resulting in four seasons of effective relief on short money ($7 million), none prettier than his All-Star campaign in ’07 when he went 3-2 with a 2.22 ERA in 69 innings as the primary setup man for Jonathan Papelbon. The Red Sox eventually won the World Series and Okajima was a key component.
The 2008 signing of Junichi Tazawa has also posted happy returns, despite the pitcher’s 2009 Tommy John surgery. Following the procedure, Tazawa was converted to a reliever and has been one of the best in the American League over the last three seasons. While lights-out closer Koji Uehara signed as a Major League free agent with the team prior to the 2013 World Series season, Tazawa remains the lone Asian-born Red Sox prospect to have sustained success with the big club.
So there you have it: a selected history of Boston Red Sox scouting efforts in Asia, from the misfires of the Dan Duquette regime, through the Dice-K fiasco, to the more recent success of two Japanese bullpen aces. While Million Dollar Arm has yet to produce a Major League caliber talent out of India, as the Red Sox have shown, it takes time to develop an international presence and even then, success is not guaranteed.