Red Sox Trade for 30-Year-Old Rookie Hours Before Opening Day

Red Sox pitcher Naoyuki Uwasawa, acquired from Tampa on Wednesday

Getty Red Sox pitcher Naoyuki Uwasawa, acquired from Tampa on Wednesday

Well, they waited until just about the last possible moment, but the Red Sox further boosted a pitching staff that needs help with long relief and, perhaps, with early-season spot starts by making a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday. The Red Sox are adding veteran Japanese pitcher Naoyuki Uwasawa, who is a nine-year veteran of the Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan’s big leagues.

The deal was first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, who wrote on Twitter/X: “The Boston Red Sox are acquiring right-hander Naoyuki Uwasawa in a trade with Tampa Bay, sources tell ESPN. Uwasawa, 30, had signed a minor league deal with the Rays and wasn’t going to make the team. Boston, looking for pitching, adds the veteran who pitched nine years in Japan.”

There could well be some consternation about adding a pitcher who was not cut out for the Rays this spring, and a look at Uwasawa’s numbers are some cause for concern. He made four appearances, going 0-1 with a 13.03 ERA this spring, going 9.2 innings and allowing nine earned runs. He had a WHIP of 2.38.

Naoyuki Uwasawa A Control Pitcher

Uwasawa was not immediately placed on the 40-man roster, and could either be placed on the 26-man active roster or optioned down to Triple-A Worcester. He has been a starter for most of his career, and he most likely will remain a starter in the minors with the opportunity to come up when the Red Sox have a start open.

Uwasawa was not a top-shelf prospect coming into this season, far removed from the talent level of $325 million fellow Japanese hurler Yoshinobu Yamamato, of the Dodgers. In his career in Japan, Uwasawa went 78-80 with a 3.42 ERA, and a 1.216 WHIP. He struck out 1,094 batters in 1,367.1 innings.

Sports Info Solutions had a scouting report on Uwasawa this offseason, before he landed with the Rays: “As a right-hander, Uwasawa pounds the strike zone with his varied pitches and has been a reliable innings eater since 2020. Since returning from a 2019 injury-shortened season, he has thrown at least 152 innings in the last three seasons.

“He doesn’t have the most potent stuff, but he threw strikes at a 66% strike rate in 2023; all his pitches can be thrown in and out of the zone. With slightly above-average command, he can change speeds and mixes his pitches well.

“He has some promising pitch shapes but teams will buy in on his control and hopefully better command to soak up innings.”

Red Sox Trade Bolsters Set Rotation

The Red Sox rotation is set coming into Opening Day on Thursday in Seattle, with Brayan Bello, Nick Pivetta and Kutter Crawford manning the top three slots. Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck will start the year as the 4-5 pitchers.

The Red Sox added veteran pitcher Chase Anderson this week, and he figures to be a factor when the team needs a long reliever or spot starter. The Red Sox lost presumed ace Lucas Giolito to elbow surgery this spring, and have two relievers, Liam Hendriks and Chris Murphy, who are likely to land on the injured list.

As for paying Uwasawa, he’s not going to break the bank, but the Red Sox do have some incentive to at least start him off in the minors.’s Adam Berry outlined his contract earlier in the offseason:

“If Uwasawa is added to the 40-man roster, his split contract will call for him to make $2.5 million while in the Majors and $225,000 while in the Minors, according to a source.

“He could earn up to $3.5 million, with the additional $1 million available through performance bonuses based on innings pitched in the Majors. He would receive $100,000 by working 70 innings for the Rays and the same amount for every 10 innings on top of that, with a maximum of $1 million for 160 innings.”

Read More