The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks have reached a deal with right-hander Tyler Chatwood, according to a Sports Hochi report (Japanese language link). Chatwood elected free agency after finishing the 2021 season on a minor league contract with the Giants.
After some up-and-down years with the Cubs, Chatwood seemed to be opening a new chapter in his career as a full-time relief pitcher when he signed a one-year, $3MM deal with the Blue Jays last winter. Chatwood got off to a good start with the Jays but battled some serious control issues as the year went on, leading Toronto to designate the righty for assignment and then release him in August. Chatwood caught on with the Giants on a minor league deal but only saw four innings of MLB action with San Francisco.
As a whole, Chatwood posted a 5.63 ERA over 32 innings in 2021, with a respectable 26.2% strikeout rate undermined by an ugly 14.5% walk rate. Command has been a problem for Chatwood during a large portion of his 10-year Major League career, reaching a nadir when he posted a 19.5% walk rate over 103 2/3 frames with the Cubs in 2018.
The move to Japan provides a fresh start for Chatwood as he enters his age-32 season, and it will be interesting to observe whether he works out of the Hawks’ bullpen, or if he might try to re-establish himself as a starting pitcher. At least trying to work as a starter might help raise his stock for MLB teams in the future, giving any interested clubs the option of using Chatwood as a starter, reliever, or long man.
Chatwood joins Freddy Galvis and Colin Rea as familiar big leaguers joining the Hawks this winter. Fukuoka is coming off a rare losing season after dominating Nippon Professional Baseball over the last decade — the Hawks won the Japan Series seven times between 2011-2020, including four straight titles from 2017-20.