The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks have announced the signing of right-hander Colin Rea (as per Yahoo Japan). Rea will return to the Hawks for the second straight season, and after something of a rushed departure last summer.
After initially signing with the Japanese club last winter, Rea pitched quite well (2.03 ERA, 25.33% strikeout rate) over 40 innings before he left the Hawks in August to be with his family, following the premature birth of his child back in the United States. Rea ended up catching on with the Brewers on a minor league contract, resulting in 35 2/3 innings at Triple-A and then a single game in the big leagues, tossing six innings of bulk-pitcher duty in the Brew Crew’s second-last game of the regular season.
It was enough to put a fourth MLB season on Rea’s professional resume, as Rea tossed 134 1/3 innings with the Marlins and Padres in 2015-16 before Tommy John surgery interrupted his career. He returned to throw 14 innings with the Cubs in 2020, and while the two sides worked out a one-year deal to avoid arbitration heading into the 2021 season, Rea was allowed to pursue that deal with the Hawks since he ultimately wasn’t in Chicago’s long-term plans.
Rea’s performance last season bodes well for more success in NPB, and his chances of re-establishing himself as a solid rotation candidate either in Japan or potentially for another return to a Major League team. Originally a 12th-round pick for the Padres in the 2011 draft, Rea has worked as a starter for the majority of his career. The 31-year-old isn’t a particularly hard thrower or a big strikeout pitcher, but he has a solid 3.68 ERA over 742 2/3 career innings in the minors, as well as a 4.90 ERA over his 154 1/3 frames at the big league level.