The Red Sox have outrighted right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura to Triple-A Worcester, according to Chris Cotillo of MassLive. He had been designated for assignment on the weekend but passed through waivers unclaimed. He will remain with in the Red Sox organization but without taking up a spot on the 40-man roster.
After a ten-year stretch of pitching in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, he came over to North American by signing a two-year deal with the Red Sox prior to the 2021 season. He pitched fairly well last season, registering a 3.06 ERA over 53 innings, along with a 26.2% strikeout rate and 51.8% ground ball rate. However, he did give away free passes at a 13.7% rate, much higher than last year’s 9.8% average for relievers.
His performance has taken a step backwards here in 2022, with his ERA increasing to 3.73, his strikeout rate dipping to 18% and his walk and ground ball rates not moving much. Based on that downturn in performance, the Red Sox cut him from the roster on the weekend.
There might have also been a financial motivation to the decision, given Sawamura’s contract structure. His deal guaranteed him $3MM with a $1.2MM salary both last year and this year, as well as a $600K buyout on a club option for 2023. However, there were also escalators in the deal, as MLBTR’s Anthony Franco recently explored. Sawamura had already pushed the value of his player option to $1.9MM and would have increased it to an even $2MM after appearing in his 50th game. The Red Sox designated him for assignment after his 49th. Despite losing his roster spot, Cotillo relays that Sawamura’s option is still active.
Sawamura hasn’t previously been outrighted in his career and also has less than three years of MLB service time. That means he does not have the ability to reject this assignment and must report to Worcester to try to get back on track in Triple-A.