FEB. 15: The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link) has additional contract details, saying Sawamura will earn $3MM over the course of the two-year pact and the Red Sox also have a “conditional and complex” club option on his services for the 2023 season. If Sawamura hits every possible bonus, the contract will max out at $7.65MM over the three years.
FEB. 10: The Red Sox “appear on the cusp of” a deal with Sawamura, writes Alex Speier of the Boston Globe. Sankei Sports reports it will be a two-year, $2.4MM deal with additional incentives available, according to Speier.
FEB. 7: The Red Sox are making progress on a deal with reliever Hirokazu Sawamura, reports Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com (Twitter link). If finalized, it’s expected to be a major league contract, per Cotillo. Sawamura is an unrestricted free agent, so the Sox would not owe any compensation to his previous Nippon Professional Baseball team, the Chiba Lotte Marines.
The 32-year-old (33 in April) has pitched to a 2.77 ERA with decent strikeout (22.0%) and walk (7.3%) rates in nine seasons at Japan’s highest level. Sawamura had a difficult start to the 2020 season with the Yomiuri Giants, pitching to a 6.08 ERA while striking out eleven and issuing eight walks in 13.2 innings. After the Giants traded him to the Marines midseason, though, Sawamura turned his fortunes around. Over 21 innings for the Marines down the stretch, the right-hander worked to a 1.71 ERA with a much better 29:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Last year’s early struggles were surely a red flag for some big league teams, but Sawamura’s post-trade rebound, his track record, and MLB-caliber arsenal have all seemingly worked in his favor as he’s talked with MLB teams this winter. Sawamura has a fastball that can reach 97 mph, a low-90s splitter that functions as his primary out pitch, and a slider.