The parade of relievers heading to Cubs spring training camp just got a bit longer:
Cubs sign reliever Junichi Tazawa to minor league deal.— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) January 26, 2019
Junichi Tazawa is 32 and quite frankly was pretty bad for the Marlins and Angels in 2018, with a combined 7.07 ERA and 1.821 WHIP in 31 appearances covering 28 innings, in which he allowed seven home runs and posted -0.9 bWAR.
He was pretty good for the Red Sox from 2012-16, though, and the first three of those years were quite good: combined 2.62 ERA and 1.135 WHIP in 179 relief outings.
Tazawa is an interesting case. Born in Japan, he never pitched in NPB, the major leagues of Japan. Instead, he skipped the NPB draft and signed at age 23 by... Theo Epstein’s Boston Red Sox in 2008. So there’s a Theo connection here. He pitched briefly in Boston in 2009, had Tommy John surgery in 2010 and returned to Boston’s bullpen at the end of 2011.
This is another low-risk, possibly high-reward signing, as was the signing of George Kontos and Rob Scahill, other early-30s relievers who had previous success in MLB.
We should soon have a complete official list of non-roster invitations to Cubs spring training and I assume Tazawa will be on it.