The Tigers have agreed to a minor league contract with veteran reliever Junichi Tazawa, per a club announcement. (The move was first noted on Twitter by Roster Roundup.) The righty was released by the Marlins after being designated for assignment last month.
Tazawa, who’ll turn 32 later this week, signed what proved to be an ill-fated two-year, $12MM deal with Miami in the 2016-17 offseason. The former Red Sox setup man struggled enough with the Fish that he couldn’t hold his roster spot through the life of that deal, however. After posting a 5.69 ERA in 55 1/3 innings last season, he opened the 2018 campaign by allowing 20 earned runs in 20 inning of work.
After averaging better than a strikeout per inning with the Red Sox from 2009-16, Tazawa’s strikeout numbers fell off sharply in 2017. 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 returned in 2018 — 24 in 20 innings — but he also issued 13 walks and served up six homers with the Marlins. Beyond that, his average fastball velocity sat at a career-low 91.5 mph, and his swinging-strike rate (7.8 percent) and chase rate (28.4 percent) were also career-worsts.
Despite Tazawa’s considerable struggles over the past two seasons, adding him to their Triple-A ranks is a no-risk proposition for the Tigers. The balance of his $7MM salary for the 2018 season will be paid out by the Marlins, so Detroit will only be on the hook for the pro-rated league minimum for any time he spends at the big league level. (That sum would subsequently be subtracted from what the Marlins owe Tazawa.) If he’s able to rebound to any extent, he’ll step up to the big league level to help out a Tigers bullpen that currently ranks 25th in the Majors with a 4.66 ERA.