Via the Worldwide Leader, we learn that Junichi Tazawa is now a free agent. While the Japanese Leagues have recently tightened the rules about players heading to the U.S., nothing prevents teams from signing amateur free agents. The bidding war will not involve a posting fee.
So then attention this off-season will turn to Tazawa. He is a 22 year old with a high-90s fastball and some very good breaking pitchers, according to scouting reports. Early rumors indicate that he will draw plenty of interest from the usual suspects of MLB teams with the Red Sox and Yankees leading the pack.
As we while away the days until free agency, let’s speculate on Japan. The Yankees have gotten burned on Japan recently with Kei Igawa, but he didn’t come with nearly the same level of hype as Tazawa. The Yanks have also seen their rival Red Sox land an overhyped but pretty good pitcher in Daisuke Matsuzaka. What then do you do here?
Should the Yanks pursue Junichi Tazawa within reason? Are we too afraid of the Kei Igawa/Hideki Irabu vortex of overhyped Japanese pitchers?
It would be pretty unprecedented for a young Japanese pitcher to start his career in the Majors, and it sounds like Tazawa has the goods to make a go of it. But as the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”