The Marlins announced Thursday that they’ve designated veteran right-hander Junichi Tazawa for assignment and also optioned righty Tyler Cloyd to Triple-A New Orleans. Corresponding roster moves tomorrow will be announced tomorrow.
Tazawa, who’ll turn 32 in early June, was signed to a two-year, $12MM contract in the 2016-17 offseason as the Marlins sought to bolster the back of their bullpen in free agency. (Brad Ziegler, too, was signed to a two-year deal that winter.) Instead, however, Tazawa’s time in Miami has been nothing short of nightmarish. After a long run as a solid setup man and middle relief piece in Boston, Tazawa turned in a 5.69 ERA in 55 1/3 innings last season and has surrendered 20 earned runs in 20 innings thus far in 2018.
Tazawa’s strikeout numbers fell off sharply in 2017, as he posted a 6.2 K/9 mark and 16 percent overall strikeout rate — each the lowest full-season levels of his MLB career. His strikeouts have returned in 2018 — 24 in 20 innings — but he’s also issued 13 walks and served up six homers, including one long ball in today’s game. Beyond that, while Tazawa is picking up some strikeouts at the moment, his average fastball velocity is sitting at a career-low 91.5 mph, and his swinging-strike rate (7.8 percent) and chase rate (28.4 percent) are also career-worsts. Given that context, it seems that his strikeout rate was likely due for some regression anyhow.
Miami will still owe Tazawa the balance of this year’s $7MM salary — a total of about $5.17MM through season’s end. They’ll have a week to trade, outright or release Tazawa, though it seems decidedly unlikely that another club would have interest in paying any portion of that remaining sum. Tazawa has enough service time to reject an outright assignment in favor of free agency without forfeiting the remainder of his salary, as well, so the likeliest outcome is that he’ll be released and seek a fresh start in a new organization (almost certainly on a minor league deal). Any club that signs Tazawa will only owe him the pro-rated portion of the league minimum for any time he spends in the Majors. That sum would be subtracted from what the Marlins owe him through season’s end.