2009 Offseason: Sox add Saito to the bullpen

The Red Sox continue to be busy signing players with high upside. They now have Japanese pitcher Takashi Saito in the mix for the bullpen, having signed him to a one-year deal worth $1.5-2.5M and up to $7M after incentives. The 39-year old Saito is coming off of a season in which he missed two months with an elbow problem, but he has shined in his three Major League seasons, posting a 1.95 ERA with 81 saves over 189.2 IP. He has posted great peripherals, including a 11.63 K/9 rate and a 2.47 BB/9 rate, but his age and injury concerns led the Dodgers to non-tender him this offseason.

Saito throws his fastball around 91-93 mph, and complements that with a slurvy pitch around 82 mph and a hard curveball. He mixes his pitches a lot, and has succeeded with deception and pinpoint control. If healthy, he could take this bullpen from good to great. I expect that he will be able to turn in at least 30-40 IP with an ERA around 3.00.

Once again, all signs point to Justin Masterson being the odd man out on this pitching staff. I would not be surprised if the Red Sox send him (and perhaps another minor leaguer) to either Arizona for Miguel Montero or Texas for Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

It’s interesting to see Theo leveraging Boston’s considerable financial resources in a new way. They missed out on the big free agent catch, so they are distributing their available cash (and risk) into high-upside players like Saito. This strategy is not as flashy as spending $400M in one offseason, but it is effective at incrementally upgrading the team and maximizing roster flexibility. Let’s hope that these small improvements prove to be enough to get us into the playoffs this year.


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