Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE
The Boston bullpen just found an upgrade in Koji Uehara
The Red Sox have a full bullpen, but that doesn't mean there isn't room to upgrade. Having a bunch of solid arms with potential is good and all, but bringing in another arm with a history of success has its merits. The Red Sox front office agrees, as they have reportedly signed Koji Uehara to a one-year, $4.5 million deal for 2013. WEEI's Alex Speier confirms that a deal is close.
Uehara has one obvious flaw: he misses time with injury. He's thrown more than 60 innings just twice in his four years in the majors, but whenever he is on the mound, there aren't many who can perform better. Despite spending his entire career in the AL East and AL West, in parks that favored hitters while in Camden and Arlington, he owns a 2.89 ERA, 153 ERA+, has struck out just under 10 batters per nine innings, and, most eye-poppingly, has punched out eight times as many hitters as he has walked.
Uehara threw 36 innings with the Rangers in 2012, thanks to a latissimus dorsi strain that cut his season shot. Uehara posted a 1.75 ERA in the frames he did work, and struck out 43 hitters against three walks. In the 11 innings after returning from injury, the right-hander struck out 19 hitters while walking a grand total of one. Control doesn't come in forms much better than Uehara's, and that's why it's easier to stomach home run rates that you wouldn't expect from someone with such dominant-looking strikeout and walk numbers. If there's no one on base, a solo shot every now and again isn't going to kill your numbers, as his career ERA reminds us of.
The presence of Uehara does mean that someone in the Red Sox bullpen is probably going to be packaged in a trade this winter. It might -- or some transaction, anyway -- happen very soon, as the Red Sox do not have three open spots on the 40-man roster to house all of Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, and Uehara, and they still need to bring in a fifth starting pitcher to round out the rotation.
If one of the catchers goes in a trade soon, you can expect a reliever to go along for the ride, as the Red Sox are not just loaded up on the 40-man, but there's no room left in the pen on the 25-man, either.