The Oakland A’s quest for additional relievers could include a search overseas, where Hirokazu Sawamura would be an intriguing option.
With free agency getting ever closer, the Oakland A’s will soon be faced with some difficult decisions. They will be tasked with somehow rebuilding the roster in the wake of multiple expected departures in free agency, with ten players slated to hit the market. This would be a difficult task even without the payroll limits that the A’s have.
There may be a potential budget option available for the bullpen. Japanese reliever Hirokazu Sawamura is set to hit free agency, and could be looking to come stateside. At the very least, he has reportedly drawn interest from several major league teams.
Sawamura has served in a variety of roles during his time in Japan, even spending two years as a closer before shoulder woes sidelined him for most of 2018. Over his nine years in Nippon Professional Baseball, he has posted a 2.77 ERA and a 1.182 WHiP, striking out 780 batters with 258 walks in 862 innings.
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With that track record of success, Sawamura would seemingly be an interesting target. However, he struggled in 2020, posting a 6.08 ERA and a 1.650 WHiP in his 13.1 innings with the Yomiuri Giants. While he did return to form after a trade to the Chiba Lotte Marines, those early season struggles could be a reason for concern.
Although he will be 33 years old at the beginning of the 2021 campaign, Sawamura can still be an interesting option. He has the type of arsenal that could lead to major league success, with an upper 90s fastball, a plus splitter, and a solid slider. That would certainly play at the major league level.
Even better, he may be relatively inexpensive. While free agent starting pitchers have been able to cash in, the same has not been the case with relievers coming from Japan. The A’s may be able to land a solid bullpen arm for far less than they normally would.
Hirokazu Sawamura is slated to be a free agent this offseason. If he wants to come stateside, the Oakland A’s should be interested.