3 Astros Trade Targets on Teams Falling Out of Playoff Race

3 of 4

2. Hirokazu Sawamura, RP (Red Sox)

The current Red Sox regime, led by team president Chaim Bloom, has shown no hesitancy to trade their best players when they slip away from contention, as evidenced by the Mookie Betts trade following 2019. If they continue to stumble and the team actually decides to pull the trigger and punt on this season, they have multiple stars whose contracts are soon to expire, but none in an area of need for Houston.

The Astros’ rotation is so good that when Lance McCullers finishes up his rehab starts, they will have 7 MLB-caliber starters on the roster. While the bullpen has also pitched to an elite level, they can’t claim to have the world-class depth that the rotation does. So, it would make sense if the team felt it was worth it to add one more arm in that area. Enter Sawamura, who got off to a dominant start last year in his first season over from Japan but faded down the stretch. This season, he has been steadier, with a 2.48 ERA and 3.53 FIP through 36.1 innings.

Houston already has plenty of good right-handed relievers, and Sawamura is averaging less than a strikeout per inning, but he would take some pressure off of Phil Maton, who has been shakier in high-leverage spots this season (1.25 WHIP compared to Sawamura’s 1.13). He has been particularly hot in the past couple months with a 1.86 ERA and 7.4 K/9 since June 1 and he has a devastating splitter (.159 opponents’ average), a pitch not seen too often in the game anymore. Best of all, if the team trades for him and can’t find a place for him on next year’s depth chart, they can simply decline his club option for 2023.

According to Spotrac, Sawamura has a salary of just $1.2M, meaning he would come cheap both financially and in terms of the trade package that the Red Sox would likely ask for. It has been an ugly couple of weeks for the Red Sox, who have been held back from their full potential in large part due to their bullpen. Sawamura is one of the bright spots, and if they continue down their current path, he would surely draw some interest from many teams around the league.