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Red Sox Make Offer To Tazawa UPDATE

UPDATE: News on the Tazawa front, with the Boston Globe reporting that Tazawa has accepted the Red Sox offer. Chad Fidd reported early early Friday morning that Tazawa had picked the Red Sox above the Braves, Rangers and Tigers, and since then the Kyoto Wire service out of Japan has reported that Tazawa formally turned down the Braves and Rangers offers, which would leave Boston as the lone team still in line to sign him.

Tazawa agreed to the deal discussed in the post below, though an additional addendum was made to stipulate that he would be included on the initial 40-man roster. Tazawa graduated from high school in Yokohama, and said that pitching for the same team as national icon Daisuke Matsuzaka, another Yokohama native, was a significant motive for the young pitcher. Interestingly, money may not have been, as the Boston offer is reportedly less lucrative than the one extended to Tazawa from the Rangers and, possibly, from the Braves as well. Japanese outlet Sankei Sports is reporting that the Boston deal is for 3 years and $6 million.

There's been healthy scuttlebutt about where Japanese pitching starlet Junichi Tazawa will end up next year all offseason, with reports leaking out that as many as four teams (Red Sox, Braves, Mariners and Rangers) have made offers to the 22 year old.

Well, now we've got details about the Boston offer, and there are reports -- from Japanese outlet Nikkan Sports -- that Tazawa has already decided on signing with the Red Sox.

NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman is reporting the Boston offer is for $3 million across three years, a significant downgrade over rumors that trickled out only hours earlier that the contract would be for $6 million. Newman says the deal will start by having Tazawa begin in AA, where he'll remain a starter (a number of teams were courting him as a reliever) and where he'll have a personal translator. The deal is being pitched as a developmental opportunity for Tazawa, who seems taken with it.

Evidently the Red Sox offer came after a nearly two-hour negotiating session between Tazawa, his agent and Craig Shipley, Boston's VP of international scouting. Shipley's legend has grown exponentially in the international scouting circuit, buoyed mostly by his six-year courtship of Daisuke Matsuzaka, eventually resulting in Boston's negotiation-winning bid for the Seibu turned Red Sox ace and his eventual spot on the Red Sox roster and in the subsequent 2007 World Series-winning rotation.

If you want more background on Tazawa, and why teams are lining up for his services (the Indians and Tigers have also held talks with his agents), here's a Japanese prospect piece from ESPN's Jim Allen. Note that Allen doubts Tazawa's velocity (88-90 mph tops) and endurance, but loves his slurve, which could be a huge asset in America. And if you happen to doubt Allen's analysis of this particular Japanese free agent class -- and Tazawa in particular -- it's worth reading this response piece from the East Windup Chronicle, among my personal favorites.

And here's another great link, passed on from a commenter below, from the New York Times' incomparable Alan Schwarz (and Brad Lefton, to be fair) about Tazawa and how his American courtship has infuriated a number of Japanese baseball officials. It's a great piece and really gets to the bottom of why Tazawa is such a big deal. To have Japanese players abandoning the domestic professional system for developmental opportunities in America is a seismic shift, and one that could change the face of both leagues ... and circumvent the highly controversial posting system in the process. Thanks again for the heads up. Much appreciated, as are all the comments.

By Cameron Smith  |  November 28, 2008; 5:04 PM ET
Categories:  Braves , Indians , Mariners , Rangers , Red Sox , Tigers  
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Comments

Thanks, Cameron. The NY Times also had a good piece on Tazawa last week, and the controversy that has developed about US teams signing him. Here's the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/20/sports/baseball/20pitcher.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Tazawa&st=cse&oref=slogin

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | November 24, 2008 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Another link reports him as having a low to mid 90s fastball, with a curve that 75 -78.
http://bleacherreport.com/articles/76353-junichi-tazawa-scouting-report

There is also video with a 4 seam at 148 - 150 km/hr (pulling this off SoSH), which backs the higher speed estimate. A two seemer a little slower, which may be what Allenis talking about. He has a big breaking ball around 121 - 124 km/hr, and a tighter one at 130. Here is the better video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxRKY_Xg5tQ

Rangers may be throwing more money at him.

To relate this to the Nats, it seems that Boston now has some credibility in Japan and has built an infrastructure of support for Japanese players. I believe last summer they signed a catcher from the Industrial league (like Tazawa) as well. It might behoove the Nats to work on their presence. Even a trade for Fukudome might at least get a few games broadcast there when the cherry blossoms bloom in left.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | November 24, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

PTBNL, all the Nats need to do in order to get a foothold in Japan is for Stan and JimBo to work the embassy like Stan said. Right.....

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | November 24, 2008 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Chad Finn.

Can Dave or Chico (or Cameron, or Tracee, or Tom, or Tom) do a piece on Japanese FAs who might come over this year. In particular, I'm curious about Koji Uehara and Hitoki Iwase (and Kawakami, too, who is supposed to be another Kuroda). One is a swing man, the other a LHP late inning guy. Curious if the Nats have a philosophy here. Do they think that older Japanese pitchers are nice filler / low downside options while waiting for internal players develop or do they think they roadblocks hogging roster space that could be given to system products? Iwase essentially took Otsuka's place with the Chunichi Dragons and set some reliever records. Are the Nats at all involved if he is interested in coming over?

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | November 28, 2008 8:39 PM | Report abuse

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