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Red Sox Notes: Hirokazu Sawamura, Chris Hermann, Joel Payamps

Catching up on some news that was overshadowed by the Andrew Benintendi trade.

Japan v China - World Baseball Classic First Round Group A Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

The Red Sox made some news on Wednesday night by sending former top prospect and 2018 champion Andrew Benintendi to the Royals in a three-team deal. We’ve been talking about that for the most part since that happened, but there are a few bits of news pieces that got lost in the shuffle over the last 24 hours or so on which we’ve fallen behind. And so we’ll cover a few moves here to catch us back up.

Hirokazu Sawamura signing appears to be imminent

For almost a week now it has seemed likely that the Red Sox were going to sign Hirokazu Sawamura, a right-handed reliever from Japan. Chris Cotillo first mentioned the possibility on Sunday.

There hadn’t been much reported clarification on the deal until a few days later, when reports from Japan came out that a deal was imminent and was likely to be for two years totaling $2.4 million with incentives on top of that.

Sawamura, who will turn 33 a couple days after the 2021 regular season is set to begin, has spent his entire career to this point in Japan, with most of that time being spent with the Yomiuri Giants. Although he began his career as a starter, the veteran has been pitching out of the bullpen since 2015. This past summer he got off to a tough start for Yomiuri, pitching to a 6.08 ERA over his first 13 outings with 11 strikeouts and 8 walks over 13 13 innings. He was subsequently traded to the Chiba Lotte Marines, where his season turned around. To close out the season Sawamura pitched to a 1.71 ERA over 21 innings in 22 appearances with 29 strikeouts and 10 walks.

In terms of scouting, Sung Min Kim helps us out a bit there, describing Sawamura as a “power reliever” with a big fastball that sits in the mid-90s to go with a splitter.

It comes as no surprise, but it looks like the Red Sox are going with a quantity over quality approach in the late innings, with Sawamura being another stuff-first reliever whose command can be shaky at times. There is obvious upside there, but it comes with its fair amount of downside. With him, Barnes, Ottavino and Darwinzon Hernandez, the Red Sox have the stuff to put together a workable core in their bullpen. It will just be on Alex Cora to mix and match correctly and maximize their talents and workloads.

With this move, the Red Sox now have another 40-man spot to clear. Martín Pérez still needs to be added as well, so there are two moves to be made before they can catch up on making all of their additions official. I would guess one of the spots will be opened by placing Chris Sale on the 60-day injured list when he is eligible next week when spring workouts begin.

Joel Payamps claimed off waivers

In order to make room on the 40-man for Garrett Richards, the Red Sox designated Joel Payamps for assignment. It was a move that made sense as he had some of the lowest upside on the 40-man and it looked like they may be able to sneak him through, keeping him in the organization but off the roster. Well, that didn’t work out. Payamps was claimed by the Blue Jays, and thus will head to the Blue Jays organization. Chris Cotillo had it first.

The Red Sox originally claimed Payamps off waivers from the Diamondbacks earlier this winter, so he never actually played for the organization. He was expected to serve as rotation depth and as a potential multi-inning reliever who would start the season in Triple-A. The righty has pitched only seven major-league innings across two seasons, pitching to a 3.86 ERA with five strikeouts and six walks. In 2019, he made 15 starts between Double-A and Triple-A, pitching to a 3.89 ERA over 78 23 innings with 69 strikeouts and 18 walks.

I thought there was a solid chance Payamps would clear waivers, but this is also part of the risk. I’m not overly concerned about losing him, as I think Boston actually has solid enough rotation depth that they can fill his spot relatively easily.

Chris Hermann signs minor-league deal

Finally, the Red Sox have added a little bit of depth behind the plate, signing veteran Chris Hermann to a minor-league deal.

Hermann, who will be 33 years old for the entire 2021 season, is a former sixth round pick, selected by the Twins back in 2009. He made his major-league debut in 2012 and has played in the majors for four organizations, most recently with the Athletics in 2019. In his career, he has 992 plate appearances in which he’s hit .205/.282/.344 for a 67 wRC+ while generally grading out poorly on the defensive side of things. There’s a reason he was available on a minor-league deal, you know?

This was an area of need for Boston, who have a really solid duo in the majors with Christian Vázquez and Kevin Plawecki, but lacked a reliable third option, at least to start the year. Connor Wong is on the 40-man, but he has yet to play above Double-A, and he only has 40 games there. Perhaps he can be counted on as a third catcher for the second half, but they needed someone with some experience to fill that role. Obviously the hope is that Hermann is not going to be needed, but catcher is a tough position and injuries happen. Better to have the option than not.