Naoyuki Uwasawa has announced that he’s planning on pitching in Major League Baseball in 2024, announcing it at a press conference over the weekend. The Cincinnati Reds were one of the teams that was scouting him in September at the end of his season for the Nippon Ham-Fighters according to Sports Hochi.
The 29-year-old is coming off of a season where he pitched 24 games and threw 170.0 innings. He did that while posting an ERA of 2.96, giving up just 152 hits, walking just 41 batters, and racking up 124 strikeouts. In his nine seasons while playing in the NPB he’s thrown 1118.1 innings with a 3.19 ERA.
Uwasawa has never been a big strikeout pitcher. He throws plenty of strikes, which doesn’t lead to many walks, but the right-handed pitcher instead tends to rely on his defense. From a stuff standpoint, he doesn’t really stand out. His fastball velocity is a bit below-average by big league standards, working around 91 MPH as a starter.
He is not yet a free agent, so in order to sign him a team will not only have to pay him but also a posting fee in order to sign him. With that, he has 45 days once he’s posted to come to terms with a big league team, and if he doesn’t then he will have to remain with Nippon for the 2024 season.
If he does come to an agreement in those 45 days, then his posting fee would depend on how much he signed for. If he signs for under $25,000,000 then the signing team would have to pay a 20% fee of his deal as a posting fee. Things go up from there. Here’s a deeper breakdown if you’re interested.
Given his stuff, it seems like if things go right that he’s more likely a back end of the rotation starter. How that fits in for Cincinnati is a bit of an open-ended question. The club likely needs to add some starting pitching depth given that they don’t currently have a pitcher who has thrown a full season’s worth of big league innings on the roster. Uwasawa is a guy who has thrown plenty of innings in the past.
The question that’s also important is just how much of an upgrade he would be. With the payroll for the Reds being just over $37,000,000 as things stand right now, the team has an opportunity to try and shoot for a pitcher who may profile as more of a middle or even top of the rotation guy. That kind of pitcher is likely going to be far more expensive to sign, but with that comes more of a guarantee given they will have a big league track record to look back on.