Uehara Returns To Boston
After going from first-to-worst, the Boston Red Sox figure to be busy this off-season. Their first move came one day into the official off-season, when the Red Sox announced they had re-signed closer Koji Uehara to a two-year deal. According to several published reports, the deal is worth $18 million.
Uehara was the ALCS MVP in 2013 and saved seven games during the Red Sox's championship run. That came on the heels of a 2013 regular season that saw Uehara post a 1.09 ERA and a 101:9 K:BB in 74.1 innings pitched. He took over the closer's role for Boston partway through that season and saved 21 games.
In 2014, Uehara made his first All-Star team. He had a 2.52 ERA and an 80:8 K:BB in 64.1 innings. Uehara saved 26 games.
The right-hander, who will turn 40 in April, had a rough final two months of the season and there was some speculation that he would retire. His ERA in August was 5.56 and his ERA in September was 6.25. He allowed four homeruns in just 15.2 innings over those two months. Uehara was removed from the closer's role in early September. His re-signing with Boston doesn't preclude the Red Sox from going out and acquiring another closer and keeping Uehara in a set-up role.
Uehara began his professional career in his native Japan, and he pitched in the Japanese Professional League from 1999-2008. In 2009, he signed with the Baltimore Orioles and spent two plus seasons pitching for Baltimore. He was traded to the Texas Rangers during the 2011 season and Uehara helped the Rangers reach their first World Series that season. In 2013, he signed with the Red Sox as a free agent.
The Red Sox are expected to be in the market for starting pitching and offensive help this off-season. Possible targets include free agents Pablo Sandoval, Chase Headley, Jon Lester, James Shields and Max Scherzer. The Red Sox could also use their strong farm system to fill their needs via the trade market. Boston went 71-91 last season, one year after winning their third World Championship in 10 years.
Youkilis Announces Retirement
Former Red Sox's All-Star third baseman Kevin Youkilis officially announced his retirement on Thursday. Youkilis played on the Red Sox from 2004 until he was traded to the Chicago White Sox midway through the 2012 season. He spent the 2013 season with the New York Yankees before playing with Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan in 2014.
In 10 major league seasons, Youkilis hit .281/.382/.478 with 150 homeruns. He also played above-average defense at third base and first base. Youkilis won two World Series titles with the Red Sox (2004 and 2007). He was a three-time All-Star and won a Gold Glove at first base in 2007.