Hirokazu Sawamura would add great depth to the Red Sox bullpen
The Boston Red Sox continue to be on the search for more bullpen help to go along with Adam Ottavino. Per MassLive Red Sox beat writer Chris Cotillo, the Sox have made progress to finalize a deal with Japanese reliever Hirokazu Sawamura. Sawamura has been a popular name within the free-agent market this offseason.
He seems more than willing to make the move from Japan to the United States, but he has yet to find a home in the MLB. However, the Sox have now suddenly become the favorites to land the right-hander sooner rather than later.
This would be a valuable signing for Boston’s pen and well worth the risk. Many could look at his age and become worried because he is 32-years-old, but let’s not forget a right-handed Japanese pitcher by the name of Koji Uehara. Koji broke into the MLB at 34-years-old and went on to play 10 seasons in the bigs including a fantastic stint with the Red Sox. In his four years in Boston, he piled up 79 total saves, posting an average ERA of 2.32, and played a vital role on the 2013 World Series team.
Sawamura began his career in Japan as a starting pitcher in 2011, but by 2015 he made the switch to the bullpen and will be looked at as a set-up man or closer in the MLB. In 10 seasons he posted a record of 48-52 to go with a 2.77 ERA, 75 saves, 64 holds, and 790 strikeouts.
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He is known for his filthy split-fingered fastball that will make opposing batters look silly at the plate, he also has a slider and a curveball to add to his arsenal. Sawamura typically clocks in at around the low to mid 90’s but did throw a pitch last season that hit 99mph and can keep hitters off-balance. If he is brought to Boston, the team will need to evaluate where he best fits into the equation and must stray from their common practice of overusing the same pitchers.
It’s still unknown how Alex Cora will structure his bullpen in 2021 as he’ll be working with new toys in Tanner Houck and Matt Andriese. We also saw the emergence of Phillips Valdez last year as one of the few bright spots in 2020. AC has also spoken about his belief that both Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez could be big factors for the Red Sox coming out of the pen this year. If anyone will have to sweat the arrival of Sawamura it’ll be the usual suspects in Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier.
With the Red Sox having a vacancy at the back-end of the bullpen, Sawamura would automatically be a favorite to take over the closer position. If they can even get half the player that Koji was it will be worth it, as it is so valuable to have stability in the 8th and 9th innings. It may take some time for him to adjust to MLB hitters but Sawamura is more than capable of becoming a serviceable pitcher in this league. It could be as soon as this week that he will officially be a Boston Red Sox, as they should make the move and finish the offseason strong.