The Red Sox made the signing of righthander Hirokazu Sawamura official Tuesday, announcing a two-year contract through the 2022 season with a dual club/player option for the 2023 season. Sankei Sports previously reported that the deal was worth $2.4 million with incentives.
Sawamura, 32, is known for his fastball, which reportedly clocks between 94 and 97 m.p.h., and his power swing-and-miss splitter, but he had inconsistent results last season. In 13⅓ innings of work for the Yomiuri Giants, Sawamura compiled a 6.08 ERA and was demoted to the minors. Yet once he was traded midseason to the Chiba Lotte Marines, his season turned around. In his next 21 innings, Sawamura had a 1.71 ERA and struck out 29.
“He has power stuff that we think has a chance to play in the big leagues against good hitters, both righties and lefties,” chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said. “When he’s locked into a good attack plan, his fastball and splitter should play well off each other.”
Sawamura made an adjustment that led to some of his success with Chiba. At the beginning of the 2020 season, he positioned himself on the mound closer to the third base side, but then moved toward first. As a result, his splitter stayed on the plate more and became a huge weapon in his arsenal.
It’s still unclear how the Red Sox will utilize Sawamura in the bullpen. Nevertheless, he adds more depth to the relief group that was a focus for the Red Sox this offseason. He certainly has experience on his résumé, with 10 pro seasons — nine of which came in the Nippon Professional Baseball organization — prior to joining the Red Sox.
“Watching the adjustments he made, and getting to know him a bit, we came away feeling that he was trending in a good direction,” Bloom said. “He’s bringing a good mindset into camp and it’s our job to get to know him, bring the best out of him, and make sure that success continues.”
Sawamura will become the ninth player born in Japan to play for the Red Sox, the team said. The others are outfielder Dave Roberts (2004) and pitchers Tomo Ohka (1999-2001), Hideo Nomo (2001), Daisuke Matsuzaka (2007-12), Hideki Okajima (2007-11), Takashi Saito (2009), Junichi Tazawa (2009, ’11-16), and Koji Uehara (2013-16).
To make room for Sawamura on the 40-man roster, lefthander Jeffrey Springs was designated for assignment.