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.

77 Responses

  1. Jer-B

    I think the money would be better spent on a proven innings eater MLB vet. Who knows how NU’s stuff plays in the MLB. The Reds have plenty of rotation caliber arms, just not anyone who has proven a full season of starter innings. A vet could serve as a good mentor for the young guys too.

  2. RedFuture

    I’d prefer they do NOT sign Uwasawa. I would like to see the Reds use a 6 man rotation of 3 righties and 3 lefties. Greene, Abbott, Ashcraft, Williamson, Phillips and Lodolo, with Richardson and Spier as AAA backups. It is impressive though that Naoyuki averaged a tad over 7 innings per start. It is imperative to average at least 6 innings per start with the 6-man rotation. If all 6 pitch on schedule they would each make 27 starts with a goal of 162 innings (which happens to be the threshold to qualify for the ERA title). This gives each SP a full 5 days of rest rather than 4. The 6-man reduces the bullpen from 8 arms to 7 arms, so it is mandatory that they get an extra inning per start. The team would have the flexibility to skip a starter here and there with so many off days. Also as postponements force double headers 3 or 4 times, it would be easy to move the staff up a day to absorb it seamlessly. In fact there are enough off-days that the SPs would get 6 or more full days off nearly as often as they pitch with the nominal 5 days of rest.

    • jon

      They just went through the season with these guys and didn’t make the playoffs.2 can’t stay healthy, one finished poorly(abbott),Phillips could get out of first inning and Williamson was ok.

      • Tom Diesman

        Reds current projected opening day rotation of Greene, Lodolo, Ashcraft, Abbott, and Williamson (Average age of 24.4 years) put up a 4.62 ERA in 99 GS. The MLB average starter last season had a 4.45 ERA. You need to let the development process run its course. Some hit the ground running, and some take a little more time.

      • JB

        Phillips couldn’t get out of the first inning one game. No sense in letting the facts tarnish your comment. Carry on.

      • BK

        @Tom, the injury history is much more troubling than the actual results. Like you, I expect improvement. The rest of the team is too good to allow starting pitching depth to tank the season.

      • BK

        @JB, in fairness, at Louisville in four of Phillip’s ten starts, he didn’t complete the second inning. In a fifth start, he didn’t make it through the third inning. He was excellent in the other starts.

      • Tom Diesman

        @BK, agreed on the injury history, but let’s also note that none of the three that missed time last season (Greene/hip, Lodolo/tibia, Ashcraft/toe) did so because of arm issues. So unless any of these end up being chronic in nature, there is good reason to expect improvement from them on the injury front as well.

        I’m all for adding rotation depth, I just want to note that the rotation is not in near as bad shape as some may think.

      • BK

        @Tom, I agree. I want to see them add one decent starter this offseason to bolster the rotation. Unless the pitcher is truly young/elite, a shorter-term signing (or trade) will give the Reds a year to evaluate the pitching. It’s been stunning to see how many pitchers teams are going through these days.

      • Chris

        JB, Randy Johnson and many others have had games early on where they didn’t get out of the 1st inning. Not sure you judge a young players career on one start in his 1st season. Phillips should turn out to be one excellent young pitcher. Based on what we’ve heard, many other GM’s feel the same way.

      • JB

        Chris- I was responding to Jon’s comment on Phillips. Try to keep up.

    • Rod Andrews

      Would love for the Reds to at least try a six man rotation for the very reasons you stated. If it doesn’t work, go back to five

  3. doofus

    You can never have enough pitching.

    Injuries will play a part in how a staff is constructed.

    Is the Reds defense as presently set up good enough to field their positions behind pitchers that pitch to contact?

  4. doofus

    It seems that Yuki would give hitters a different look.

  5. Doc4uk

    Do not like this idea. Trade for a proven major league pitcher

  6. SultanofSwaff

    Where there’s smoke there might be fire. In all the mentions about NPL pitchers on, the Reds are always mentioned as one of the teams scouting so-and-so pitcher. I’m inclined to think they will sign someone. For me though, this moment is a once a decade opportunity where payroll aligns with resources (lol) and the team can run with the big dogs and GO BIG—bid for a premium talent like Yamamoto. That’s plan A.
    Plan B–take on another team’s salary dump. Tyler Glasnow and Chris Sale are both one year rentals and making in the neighborhood of $25mil. Wouldn’t have to move premium prospects to make these deals.
    Plan C–Dylan Cease. Be ready to part with 2 top 10 prospects to secure his 2 controllable years. He’s only 27 coming off a bad year but was Cy Young runner up the previous year.

    • Nick in NKY

      This is the way.

      While Uwasawa’s results are certainly agreeable, I’m not convinced his stuff translates in MLB. Banking on him because he’d likely be cheaper is a cop out that the Reds should not be making.

    • JayTheRed

      Would this be a Sonny Gray type of situation with Cease? Bad year the year before and has a nice bounce back year.

  7. MBS

    Sure, depending on cost, but I’d still want a Snell/Gray type.


      This guy isn’t a needle mover. Probably be back in Japan after he is waived by whomever signs him.
      I’m ok going into the season with the SP projected staff. Maybe add at the deadline. Our starters need exp, innings and HEALTH.

      • BK

        Wait until the trade deadline didn’t work too well last year. With more teams competing for additional playoff slots, expect the cost of scarce resources (something pitching always seems to be) to be very high at the deadline. The offseason is the right time to address known issues, especially for small-market clubs that must net equal value when trading prospects to avoid their fanbases clamoring for the managing partner to sell the team.

  8. LDS

    Doesn’t seem like a good move. Hopefully, the Reds pass and work on something more established, already in the league.

    • JayTheRed

      Can anyone say this might end up being like Akiyama all over again, but on the pitching side of things.

  9. Votto4life

    Seems like there is a good chance this guy would be a bust. I agree spend money on an established MLB pitcher. They have plenty of #4 type starters. How about a #1 or #2?

    • Votto4life

      Looking at his numbers, he reminds me of Bob Tewksbury. Would Bob Tewksbury lead the Reds to the promise land? I would bet not.

    • Circleville

      He will be a huge unknown that will probably get what, 2 years at 10-20 mil.? It sounds like a bad idea. The Reds have 4 starters that are capable of giving you over 150 innings this year. Lodolo only had like 30 innings, he’s not gonna go 150-180 innings this year. They need to bring in a guy that can go 180. I don’t like bringing in Sonny. His injury history isn’t good, it would be a multi year deal at premium cost and would also cost a pick.

  10. greenmtred

    Does anybody have any idea how the Japanese League’s umpiring and strike zone compare with those in MLB? It sounds like this guy’s main asset is not walking people, but that alone doesn’t seem like enough, particularly at GABP where contact can be so dangerous. If his control didn’t come with him, he might not have anything to offer. I prefer Sultan’s plan B, and agree with Tom’s answer to Jon.

      • greenmtred

        No, probably not. But different could still cause him problems.

  11. TMS

    What is ironic is that Naoyuki Uwasawa sounds like the exact type of pitcher (low velocity, perhaps some junkball stuff) who would give the Reds’ hitters fits. Not sure if he would have the same effect on any one else’s hitters.

    • Capnhook33

      Bronson arroyo would no hit this lineup lol

  12. Tar Heel Red

    I would suspect that after the Akiyama disaster, it will be a while before the Reds sign another Japanese player. If I were them I would understandably be a little gun shy.

    • Pete

      Agree, it’s too far a reach. Trade or sign a free agent who has MLB experience – Reds don’t have the spare resources to gamble. I doubt they make a move unless it’s a well below market price.

  13. Rednat

    my ranking for off season needs for the reds

    1. power left handed bat
    2. power right handed bat
    3. good defensive outfielder
    4. starter
    5. bullpen help

    i really think the pitching is there . (of course if everyone stays healthy)

    • wkuchad

      I have a much different order. A starting pitcher is #1 need IMO. Backend bullpen is #2 need. Then a big dropoff in the urgency before getting to offensive needs.

    • Old Big Ed

      I don’t see a glaring need for a power-hitting lefty. They have 3 LH-hitting outfielders (Friedl with 18 HRs, Benson with 11 HR in 329 PAs; Fraley with 15 in 380 PAs), plus Votto with 14 HR in 242 PAs, and Elly De La Cruz hit 11 HRs in 271 PAs as a LH hitter. If they bring Votto back, they as a practical matter aren’t going to get another LH hitter. Votto hit 14 HRs in 271 PAs and slashed .202/.314/.433 so he is a lighter than Kyle Schwarber, who hit 47 HRs in 720 PAs and slashed .197/.343/.474. (Votto may be faster than Schwarber, but you’d need an hourglass to time the race.)

      Plus, to get a big LH bat, you’d need a place to play him. They have CES at first base; Marte at 3B; and Steer/India at LF/DH/wherever. I don’t really see anywhere to play the big LH bat, except to replace LH-hitting OFs who all are all fast, cheap and produtive.

  14. BK

    I see a starting pitcher as the top need for the Reds, but few RHP have success as MLB starters with a low 90s fastball and low K-rates.

    The one player the Reds should be willing to make a significant investment for is Yamamoto. He’s just 25 years old, and his stuff is considered elite, comparing favorably to other NPBL pitchers who have successfully transitioned to the majors. There will be significant competition to acquire his services, but the Reds are in a position to make a competitive offer this year. Based on last year’s austere payroll, strong attendance, and full RSN revenue, they should be able to absorb a posting fee that may end up north of $25M. Also, their streamlined payroll for 2024 allows them to front load a contract, adding value without increasing total outlay and minimizing the impact in the out years.

    I’m against Snell. Statcast indicates he would have given up 29 HRs if he pitched in GABP last year. That, coupled with his high BB rates, makes him a bad fit for Cincinnati. Acquiring a pitcher like Tyler Glasnow could be a cost-effective way of adding depth to the rotation.

    There are two other Japanese pitchers worth consideration. Matsui is a 27-year-old LH relief pitcher who has had a lot of success as a closer. He is a true free agent–no posting fee. He could add depth to the back of the Red’s bullpen.

    Imanaga is a LHP starter in Japan. Like many Japanese pitchers, command is his calling card as his fastball averages in the 92 mph range; he would be a mid-to-back of the rotation candidate. While he will require a posting fee, he should command a much more modest investment in AAV or length.

    Some have mentioned Akiyama’s failure with the Reds deterring them from signing additional Japanese players. Consider that Akiyama commanded only a modest free-agent contract commensurate with FA contracts for solid backups/role players. The Reds took a modest risk signing him, which didn’t work out. There are NO risk-free free agent signings. I don’t understand the logic of eliminating a source of potential players just because ONE didn’t pan out. This ignores the many Japanese players who have enjoyed success in MLB.

  15. Greenfield Red

    This feels like Shogo 2.0 to me. Pretty good numbers in Japan, but didn’t have the peripherals to back the numbers up. Did not translate to MLB.

    If this were an additional move to bring in even more pitching, then yes. If this is the club’s primary aquisition, it is not a good look to me.

  16. JB

    Doesn’t strikeout a lot of hitters. What that tells me is he is another nibbler. Hitters in MLB won’t swing at that . The Reds have enough Nibblers. Move on.

    • west larry

      Yes. move on. Not only will his price be driven up by the wealthy teams that need pitching, but then the buyer will have to pay the team losing him an additional 20 % or more. He doesn’t have electric stuff, and he walks too many batters. No thanks.

    • Old Big Ed


      The Reds don’t have near the Nibblers they did in the pre-Votto Days of Dread. Elmer Dessens. Eric Milton. Paul Wilson. Jimmy Haynes. Ryan Dempster. Chris Reitsma. Kyle Lohse.

  17. Melvin

    He probably doesn’t walk enough hitters to suit the Reds. 😉

  18. Laredo Slider

    Don’t see it, soft thrower at GABP won’t work.

    • TR

      I have no informed opinion regarding Naoyuki Uwasawa, but for some it is Great American Small Park.

  19. CI3J

    COULD they? Yes.

    SHOULD they? Maybe.

    WILL they? Probably not.

  20. RedsGettingBetter

    I don’t like him. I expect whether the Reds could sign a starting pitcher in free agency he would be a solid-to-good MLB proved pitcher

  21. MK

    The numbers he has are AAA numbers at best. They should be good as he has talent but has been pitching at the same AAA level for nine years. Don’t think I would want to pay any more than a statewide AAA veteran would receive and not more than three years.

  22. redfanorbust

    Unless Reds scouts/management are really high on him and find the cost acceptable then go for it. Who ever the Reds end up getting they need to be high quality and not just some average guy who can eat innings with a 4+ERA and go 8-12 or the like. This is rare and important opportunity Reds have not seen in DECADES. They have the money, core talent and the division is up for grabs. Even if they spend $100M on free agents this off season it brings team salary to around $140M. That would only see them hover around 13th in MLB team salaries. Spend big. Get serious quality to augment the good young talent we currently have. The fans will fill up the seats. We all need to find something serious to root for for a change.

  23. Mark Moore

    I’m pretty much ambivalent. If he’s a weak contact pitcher who won’t likely give up a bunch of dingers, maybe it would work well. I’m not put off by the low K rate as I’d rather see someone be efficient and let the team make the outs.

    I’m also in the camp that says we need to move toward the 6-man rotation. If we can do that and get 6-7 innings more often than not, I think the pen management becomes an easier thing. Then again, HDTBell does love his match-up magic, doesn’t he?

    At least we’re in the conversation.

    • Melvin

      Sounds like he will cost a lot. If so I’m not sure he’s worth it. His biggest asset may be that he’s durable which is rare these days.

  24. Jim Walker

    Game 3 of the World Series is underway as I am typing this. I am hoping tonight’s winner runs the table, whichever team that turns out to be, so we can get the real off season show underway.

    • Votto4life

      Same. I was hoping for a sweep for the same reason. I do feel it’s going to be disappointing though. If the Reds win the World Series it will be with an $80 million dollar payroll or they won’t win it at all. It’s possible I suppose, but not likely.

    • Votto4life

      Same. I was hoping for a sweep for the same reason. I do feel it’s going to be disappointing though. If the Reds win the World Series, it will be with an $80 million dollar payroll or they won’t win it at all. It’s possible I suppose, but not likely.

    • Tom Diesman

      I’m with you Jim, Go Rangers! Sounds like the offseason will begin sometime between Thurs. and Sun. The following is some of the first offseason roster manipulations we’ll see. Roster currently sits at 38.

      – Within 5 days after the World series we’ll get some answers on the remaining 4 (Votto/Casali with options, and Bader/Farmer) potential free agents and whether or not we’ll need roster spots for them.
      – We’ll need 3 (Ashcraft/Lodolo/Sanmartin) roster spots for the guys left on the 60 day IL.
      – We’ll then need to ensure we got a few roster spots (3?) available for players to protect from the upcoming Rule 5 draft. Top candidates according to Doug over at Reds Minor Leagues are Hinds/Hurtubise/Sandridge/Roa/Acuna/Heatherly.
      – They’ll probably want a open roster spot or two open for Free Agent signings and waiver claims as well.

      – Don’t forget the trade rumor mill will fire up around the Nov. 7-9 GM Meetings
      – There will also be some Minor League free agent signings that won’t require roster spots.

      Let the fun begin.

      • Votto4life

        I’ll be surprised if the Reds will bring Joey Votto back in 2024. I am OK with that IF they reinvest the savings into the team. If it is simply to save the Castellinis money, then it will be disappointing.

        Even if the Reds end up with an $80 million dollar payroll in 2024, they should be able to make at least one significant FA signing.

        My fear is the Reds will sign three below average free agents, instead of signing one good free agent.

  25. Mark

    I would rather they go after Bellinger! They have the money we know this…… could you imagine him at GABP for 81 games !!!!!

    • redfanorbust

      Mark is right on the mark! Getting a big bopper in GABP FINALLY would be huge for this team.

      • Old Big Ed

        Except that for 3 of the last 4 seasons, Bellinger has been a PeeWee Bomber.

        Plus, last year his “expected” stats (which I concede have some BS in them) were substantially below his actual results. Bellinger had 4.4 bWAR last year, and TJ Friedl (also a LH-hitting CF) had a 3.8, and Friedl will cost 1/10th of the price next season. Why spend $20 million/year for .6 WAR? Use the savings for arms.

        Let some other team plunk down 5/$120 million for that.

        I like the idea of trading India and maybe a decent prospect for 1 year of Chris Sale and a chunk of his big contract.

  26. Rob

    I think Innings Load is the biggest concern for Reds starting pitching in 2024. Out of our 6 potential starters, I don’t know that even 1-2 will even have the capability to pitch 175 innings. Maybe make that 150 innings. That is hitting the wall for 3-4 starters come late August. Krall has to know this. Doesn’t that suggest that if we want to compete in September that we need a couple seasoned arms? Continuing ….doesn’t it also suggest that 6 young starting pitchers is about 2 more than you really need? I saw enough of the Abbott show last season to know that I don’t want to see multiple repeats this year. But Krall thinks differently and maybe he thinks having 6 cheap young pitchers who fade in August is a good thing. And that they be perfectly setup for 2026.

  27. Redsvol

    Need a minimum of 2 free agent/traded for starting pitchers. If Yuki is 1 of the 2, its feasible. If a Japan NPB player is the only signing then its a bad off-season. Not every young pitcher gets a 2nd chance to lock down an MLB starting spot. Nowhere is it written that we need to wait on Lodolo to get healthy before we can make the playoffs. We need more pitchers that start 28 to 30 games – not the entire 5, but more than zero.

    Wacha, Maeda, Lugo, Giolito, Perez, Rodriguez, Montgomery, Clevenger, Cobb, Ryu, Gray, Stroman, Flaherty, Severino, Paxton, Montas and a host of others. Go get 1 of these, trade for another and sign 2 good bullpen arms.

    Several good examples in last few years of starting pitchers from NPB and Korean baseball having success in MLB. Just don’t put all the eggs in that basket.

    • Colorado Red

      Do not think we can get 2. Too much competition. I would like Rodriguez or Montgomery. I think we will be fine with that.

      • Votto4life

        Yeah, I will be surprised if the Reds are able to sign ONE significant free agent starter, let alone two. For one, I don’t think pitchers are eager to pitch at GABP. Which means the Reds are going to have to outbid their competition. I just don’t see that happening.

        They may be able to acquire a pitcher thru a trade, but they probably are going to have to overpay in prospect capital, which Nick Krall was unwilling to do as recently as 3 months ago.

        I think the Red’s best hope to bolster the rotation is acquiring a pitcher coming off a significant injury or poor season.

    • JayTheRed

      There are several names there that I would be completely happy with.

    • MBS

      I think they need a minimum of 1 SP, maximum of 2. Lodolo, and Greene can’t be counted on. I’m not knocking them, but they’ve been injured every year for significant time, stretching back into the minors. I’d strongly consider Lodolo in the pen to try and keep him healthy for full season.

      FA1, Abbott, Ashcraft, Williamson, Greene, Phillips, Richardson, Stoudt, Roa

      If we make it to Stoudt, or Roa, we’ll have wished we signed a second FA starter.

      • BK

        In September, the Reds transitioned Stoudt to a relief role. Given that he was well behind prior season inning totals, Louisville’s need for starters, and his effectiveness as a reliever, the Reds likely no longer consider Stoudt a starting pitcher.

  28. old-school

    Jim Bowden has his top 40 FA with predictions/contracts and handful of teams at the Atheltic. The prices are high with most of the good pitchers estimated to get $125 mil + on long term deals.

    Reds barely mentioned as fits. One was Eduardo Rodriguez at 5/90 mil with Reds/cards/orioles/tigers potential fits. Sonny gray was predicted 3/66 with no mention of the Reds. Wade Miely was 1/13 mil with every NL central team as a fit.

    The one name I thought interesting was Lucas Giolito. Bowden thinks he lost so much of his potential value that he will sign a 2 year 24 mil deal with a player opt out at year 1 as an option if he pitches well. Bowden felt Giolito needed to find an organization whose pitching coach and analytics team can help get him back to his prime.

    • BK

      If Yamamoto goes for as much as some are projecting, pivoting to a 1-year deal with a good bounce-back candidate may be the way to go. Giolito would fit that profile. As mentioned above, Tyler Glasnow is also someone many believe the Rays will make available, with the Rays reportedly looking for infield help.

      • old-school

        Bowden had Yamomoto at 7 years and $211 million.

      • BK

        Yep, I read the article. From my perspective, even though he’s the best available pitcher, I don’t see signing him at that price as a good value especially when you add a $34M posting fee.

      • Tom Diesman

        Beyond the top end guys, I like Eric Lauer (if healthy) and Chris Flexen as potential low end bounce back depth signings.

      • MBS

        Yep, to sign Yamamoto it will be big money, and a long time commitment. You might as well go nuts, and sign Othani. It’s 3 years more, with 17M more per season, but you’d have both a DH, and an Ace.

        Snell/Gray seem like the safer options for a top of the line starter, maybe Rodriguez.

      • BK

        @MBS, I prefer Gray over Snell. Snell’s walk rates are worrisome, especially given that he would be moving from a very pitcher-friendly park to GABP, where he would have to deal with an uptick in HRs.

  29. AJ from Hamilton

    As long as we’re considering under the radar starting pitchers, I’d like to see the Reds sign Erick Fedde, who’s had a great year in Korea this year (20 wins, 2.00 ERA). He never put it together in Washington but was always a prospect. I’m not saying he’s next year’s Merrill Kelly, but he might be.

    Guys like Eric Lauer (as mentioned above) and Dakota Hudson (if non tendered) would also be worth considering.

    • Old Big Ed

      They are going to offer a few guys like that. Teams run out of time on pitchers all the time. Robert Stephenson is a good example, and he is now doing pretty well.

      I think Sidd Finch, Jr. is available. Would need to outbid the Mets.