The Pittsburgh Pirates have done next-to-nothing to bolster their starting rotation, let alone their overall roster, this offseason, but they have been linked to an international free agent over the past couple of days.
Reports out of Japan say the Pirates are potential suitors for 29-year-old Naoyuki Uwasawa, who spent his entire career with the Nippon Ham Fighters. Uwasawa is regarded as one of the final top international free agents available, given his ability to eat innings and a 66 percent strike rate in 2023.
Uwasawa is not a flame-throwing pitcher by any stretch but he does have a six-pitch arsenal. It’s headlined by a low-90s four-seam fastball, which he uses 44 percent of the time, according to the site Sports Info Solutions.
Along with that, he throws a bending curveball, a slider, a splitter, a cutter, and a changeup. All of which get less than 15 percent usage.
SIS also predicts Uwasawa to be utilized as a back-end-of-the-rotation type of pitcher and compares him to a younger Kyle Gibson. Given the Pirates’ current state of their rotation, Uwasawa would make perfect sense.
Mitch Keller is the current ace while veterans Marco Gonzales and Martin Perez make up the middle of it. Last year’s top overall pick Paul Skenes will likely lead the rotation once he’s promoted, bumping the aforementioned guys down a notch.
Then, you have the younger guys like Roansy Contreras, Luis Ortiz and Quinn Priester fighting for a spot in the rotation, but the likelihood of them taking up long-term residence in the rotation seems unlikely.
Also, as a fun fact, Uwasawa played with former Pirates James Marvel and Alen Hanson last season, so surely they’ve been campaigning for him to sign. That said through clenched teeth.
The deadline for Uwasawa to sign is 5 p.m. tomorrow, but the Pirates will have to make a pretty decent offer if they want to land him. Other teams reportedly interested are the Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Angels, Baltimore Orioles, and Oakland A’s.