The Cubs have released veteran right-hander Junichi Tazawa from their Triple-A affiliate in Iowa, as first reported by broadcaster Alex Cohen (Twitter link). He’ll return to the open market in search of a new opportunity as numerous clubs seek out bullpen depth in advance of the July 31 trade deadline.
Tazawa, who turned 33 last month, got a late start on his season but has appeared in 19 games with Iowa, pitching to an even 4.00 ERA with a 17-to-6 K/BB ratio through 18 innings in that time. He’s coming off an ugly two-year stint with the Marlins and Angels, during which time he logged a 6.16 ERA, 7.1 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 83 1/3 innings of work.
Prior to signing an ill-fated two-year deal worth a guaranteed $12MM in Miami, Tazawa was a generally solid setup piece in the Boston bullpen. From 2012-16, he racked up 78 holds and four saves while pitching to a 3.20 ERA (3.08 FIP) with a pristine 291-to-61 K/BB ratio over the life of 283 2/3 innings (plus another 7 1/3 frames of one-run ball in the 2013 postseason).
Tazawa’s average fastball velocity was down considerably from its 93.9 mph peak this past season, averaging 91.5 mph, and his 7.1 percent swinging-strike rate was his lowest since his 2009 rookie campaign in Boston. He did enjoy a strong spring with the Cubs, as he notched 5 2/3 shutout innings with nine strikeouts, no walks and just a pair of hits allowed. That, paired with his respectable output in Iowa, could suggest that Tazawa has something left in the tank, although he’ll quite likely need to prove that on another minor league deal before returning to the Major with a new club.