Japanese reliever Hiroyuki Kobayashi eyeing move to MLB


Japanese reliever Hiroyuki Kobayashi is reportedly looking to sign with an MLB team and because the 32-year-old right-hander is a free agent he won’t require a “posting fee” to negotiate with like starter Hisashi Iwakuma and infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

Formerly a starter, Kobayashi moved to the bullpen this season and saved 29 games with a 2.21 ERA and 53/13 K/BB ratio in 61 innings. Sunday he pitched in Game 7 of the Japan Series as his team, the Chunichi Dragons, won the championship in extra innings.

According to Kyodo News he’s “expected to begin the free agency process as early as Monday.”

Kobayashi isn’t considered an elite pitcher in Japan, but he has a strong track record in both the rotation and bullpen. He’ll likely be viewed as a relief option by MLB teams and quite a few Japanese relievers have been standouts in America, including Takashi Saito, Hideki Okajima, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Akinori Otsuka, Shingo Takatsu, and Shigetoshi Hasegawa.

Red Sox sign Christian Vazquez to three-year, $13.55 million extension

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The Red Sox signed catcher Christian Vazquez to a three-year, $13.55 million extension, per a team announcement on Saturday. The agreement will keep Vazquez under contract through the 2021 season and covers two years of arbitration eligibility and the catcher’s first year of free agency. It comes with a $7 million club option (and $250,000 buyout) for 2022 that could get bumped up to $8 million if he reaches 502 plate appearances in both 2020 and 2021. Vazquez has also volunteered to make an annual donation to the Red Sox Foundation as part of his new arrangement with the club.

The 27-year-old backstop is entering his fourth year with the Red Sox in 2018. He’s been a steady defender behind the dish over the last three years and was ranked fifth-best in defense among all American League catchers at the end of the 2017 season. He also enjoyed a breakout performance at the plate, slashing a career-best .290/.330/.404 with five home runs and a .735 OPS in 345 plate appearances.

Come Opening Day, Vazquez is expected to be the Red Sox’ primary option behind the plate, with veteran Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart poised to start in backup roles. Swihart is out of options, but has been groomed for a utility role this spring and could take a few reps in the left field and the infield corners if need be, as it doesn’t appear the club is prepared to trade him just yet.