Late on Thursday afternoon, the Boston Globe’s Evan Drellich tweeted that it appeared former Orioles, Rangers, and most recently Red Sox reliever Koji Uehara was on the verge of signing a contract with the Chicago Cubs.
The news comes just two days after the Red Sox made a move to acquire Tyler Thornburg to fill the eighth inning in front of closer Craig Kimbrel, prompting Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski to confirm the team would not offer the 41-year-old righty a contract for next season.
Currently, the terms of the deal are not certain. Drellich’s tweet cites a report from Nikkan Sports Japan that states the deal is worth around $4.5 million for one year, but BleacherNation’s Brett Taylor (one of the best follows on Twitter, even if you aren’t a Cubs fan, by the way) speculates that the deal is likely to be worth closer $6 million in a tweet sent out shortly following Drellich’s announcement.
Since coming to the United States and Major League Baseball from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league in 2009 at age 34, Uehara has had exceptional success, especially during his four-year stint with the Boston Red Sox. Over the last four seasons with the club, Uehara posted a 2.19 ERA and 2.57 FIP over 226.0 innings of work, striking out nearly 34 percent of batters while walking less than 4.5 percent over that same span. For what it’s worth, Uehara recorded more than 20 saves in three consecutive seasons from 2013-2015, amassing 79 such tallies in his Red Sox career.
2016 was Uehara’s worst statistical year since his “rookie” season in 2009 — working as a starter for Baltimore — when he posted a 4.05 ERA and 3.56 FIP over 66.0 innings with a lackluster 4.00 K/BB ratio. Last season, Uehara managed to toss just 47.0 innings, racking up a 3.45 ERA and 3.51 FIP, walking 11 and striking out 63 for a 5.73 K/BB ratio. While the 12.1 K/9 is nothing to sniff at for a 41-year-old with a fastball that barely reaches the high 80s, his command and control were noticeably diminished in his final season with the Red Sox.
Uehara, entering his age-42 season, joins a slew of talented relievers — Carl Edwards Jr., Pedro Strop, and Hector Rondon, to name a few — in the Chicago bullpen ahead of newly-acquired closer Wade Davis.