Players across Major League Baseball became free agents on Thursday, but as of now, they can only re-sign with their most recent club. That works just fine for Koji Uehara and the Red Sox, though, as the team announced they've re-signed the closer for two years. WEEI's Alex Speier reports that it's for $18 million total, so the luxury tax hit will be $9 million for both 2015 and 2016.
Uehara had a "down" year in 2014, at least compared to 2013 when he was essentially untouchable. He still managed a 2.52 ERA and 10 times as many strikeouts as walks -- while he struggled down the stretch, it's fair to believe he was just a bit gassed. Uehara threw a career-high 74-1/3 regular season innings in 2013 before the playoffs even occurred, and then tossed another 13-2/3 there. As he had thrown over 60 innings just twice in his career prior to that -- and one of those with time as a starter -- it's a reasonable bet that he was just a bit tired near the end of 2014 and needed the break that injuries usually brought him.
If you're in that camp -- as the Red Sox seemingly are, given they just guaranteed him $18 million -- then this is tremendous news. Even if Uehara slips back a bit in his age-40 and age-41 seasons, he would still be a lovely piece at the back end of the bullpen. When you consider how much turnover is going to happen in Boston's pen over the next couple of years, too, starting with the loss of Andrew Miller, the potential loss of Burke Badenhop, and all those starters-turned-relievers that the Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman, and Allen Webster trio could provide, someone needs to join Junichi Tazawa as a stabilizing force. And why not Koji?
This was an expected signing in some ways, but it happened a little fast even for those who assumed it would happen. We threw around the idea of two years and $18 million as a potential outcome of submitting -- or suggesting the Sox would submit -- the qualifying offer to Uehara, but the Sox skipped that first step and just went straight to the deal both sides wanted.
By the way, this is the first time Uehara has ever elected to remain with a team he had signed a contract with once it ended. That seems worthy of a high-five, no?