The move reunites Tazawa with Theo Epstein, who was the Red Sox general manager in December 2008 when Tazawa signed with Boston to begin his pro career (bypassing the Nippon Professional Baseball draft in order to go straight to North America). Tazawa was a sturdy member of Boston’s relief corps from 2012-16, though his performance dropped off after he signed a two-year, $12MM free agent deal with the Marlins prior to the 2017 season. The righty posted a 6.57 ERA over 75 1/3 innings in Miami, which led to his release last May.
Tazawa signed minors deals with the Tigers and Angels last season, getting back to the Majors for eight September games in an Angels uniform. All in all, it has been an ugly two years for Tazawa — a 6.16 ERA, 7.1 K/9, 1.74 K/BB rate, and 1.6 HR/9 over his last 83 1/3 frames. He has endured a big spike in his home run and hard-hit ball rates, as well as a decline in fastball velocity (92mph in 2018, down from 93mph in 2017 and an average of better than 94mph during his time in Boston).
Despite these recent struggles, there isn’t much risk for the Cubs in taking Tazawa to Spring Training to see if he has anything left in the tank. Chicago has been on the hunt for low-cost bullpen help this winter, looking for depth since incumbent closer Brandon Morrow could miss Opening Day in the wake of elbow surgery. Brad Brach signed a one-year, Major League deal with the team on Thursday, while the Cubs have also added the likes of Rob Scahill and George Kontos on minor league contracts.