The Miami Marlins wanted to add more arms to its pitching staff and did just that on Thursday, announcing that Junichi Tazawa had agreed to terms.
Per sun-sentinel.com, Tazawa agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal to come to Miami, according to multiple reports, continuing the Marlins’ offseason theme of reuniting free agents with noteworthy figures from earlier in their baseball careers. In the case of Tazawa, a right-handed reliever, that figure is pitching coach Juan Nieves.
Tazawa thrived under Nieves when the two were in Boston in 2013-14, with the pitcher totaling a 3.02 ERA and 1.20 WHIP while striking out more than a batter per inning and walking only two batters per nine innings. Tazawa pitching in 71 games in each of those seasons, and in 2013 he was a key cog in a bullpen that helped the Red Sox to a World Series championship.
It gives Miami one more piece to a puzzle that is starting to take shape for Spring Training in February. Hopefully, Tazawa’s playoff experience will come in handy down the stretch as Miami tries to reach the postseason for the first time since 2003.
As Tim Healy wrote, Tazawa figures to jump into the mid-to-late-inning mix, joining Kyle Barraclough, David Phelps, Nick Wittgren and Brian Ellington as reliable arms behind closer A.J. Ramos. He is one of what will likely be multiple additions to a relief corps that president of baseball operations Michael Hill is looking to bulk up, with the Marlins planning to lean heavily on the bullpen in 2017.
The Marlins had looked to sign either Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen in the offseason to improve the back end of the bullpen, but both players signed elsewhere. If the ball club is going to take the Cleveland Indians approach to its bullpen, arms with experience are the key to helping the starting rotation.
Miami also added Edinson Volquez and Jeff Locke to its rotation in deals prior to and during the MLB Winter Meetings which ended last week.
In 2008, Tazawa signed with the Boston Red Sox, reportedly for $3 million over three years. After his debut on August 7, 2009, he became the third Japanese player, after Mac Suzuki and Kazuhito Tadano, to play in Major League Baseball without first playing professionally in Japan.