Cubs News: Two intriguing pitchers added to an already loaded market
Photo courtesy: Kyodo News

Cubs News: Two intriguing pitchers added to an already loaded market


by - Senior Writer -

Coming into this offseason, everyone knew the focus would be Shohei Otani, but a close second would be the starting pitching and overall pitching market. This year is shaping up to be the best pitching market in recent memory, only to have next season possibly shaping up to be even better.

Sure, guys like Aaron Nola (Philadelphia) and Sonny Gray (St. Louis) are the big names that have come off the market, but several other pitchers have found new homes as the pitching market has started to pick up steam. Even with those names gone, Blake Snell and Yoshinbu Yamamoto remain the biggest targets, as does Jordan Montgomery. Eventually, these guys will sign, and the market will start to even out, but until then, we can only speculate where things will go.

The already crowded pitching market is getting more crowded as two more Asian-born pitchers have not only been added to the market but have now been posted for the taking. One is a starter, and one is a reliever, but both are expected to sign in the next 45 days to help someone win in 2024.

RHP Naoyuki Uwasawa is the first of the two pitchers added to the list and may be considered a tier-2 or tier-3 starter when you look at how the free agent market shapes out. Not expected to make the same impact that Yamamoto or Shota Imanaga will make, Uwasawa still has starting pitcher experience and will be a serviceable addition to the back of any rotation.

His age is the biggest hang-up when it comes to adding him to your roster, as he is already 30 and will be 31 next season. The plus is that he could come cheap and should be kept from a long-term deal, so a team won't be handcuffed financially if things don't work out. Even with him not being at the same level as the other two NPB pitchers being posted, Uwasawa has had plenty of success on the Japanese circuit, all while posting a mid 3.00 ERA. That sounds like a pitcher that anyone would be willing to take a chance on, but his success may not translate on the MLB level as well as you would think.

Not your typical high strikeout and low walk pitcher that you tend to see come out of Japan, Uwasawa has success from a more contact-heavy approach, which has pros and cons. When it comes to the Cubs defense, it can be a pro, but other teams may look at that as a con. Uwasawa’s strikeout rate is typically below 20% in the NPB. The NPB is a lower-strikeout league generally, and we’ve seen some bumps for guys when they come to MLB, so that is something to keep an eye on.

With an average fastball around 91 MPH, you can see why he allows more contact, as he isn't the type of pitcher to blow you away. Still, he has the raw stuff to translate into a better pitcher than some give him credit for and would fit well in the middle of the rotation or back of the arm on a short-term deal.

RHP Woo-Suk Go is the better of the two, but it remains a mystery as to whether or not he will even sign. Posted by his KBO team, the 25-year-old could be considered one of the top relievers on the market, right up there with Japanese lefty Yuki Matsui, whom the Cubs have been connected to all offseason long. The issue with Go is that many feel he is being posted to see what deal he can get, as 25% of that fee will go back to his team. If the deal isn't good enough, there is a good chance he will be pulled off the market, so this is a move to watch the next 45 days.

Age or not, Go has been dominating the KBO, which has to have the teams' attention. Not only did he become a shutdown reliever by age 20, but the past five seasons have made him one of the best closers the KBO has ever seen. His strikeout rates of recent vintage have been north of 30% (though the walk rates have trended toward 10%, which is not ideal), and his groundball rate has been well over 60%. Cut down on the walks, and this is just the closer you would be looking for as he pounds the zone with strikes and gets tons of soft contact.

When it comes to stuff, Go has the dominating stuff that you look for in late-inning relievers as his fastball averages 96 MPH, but has touched 98-99 at times. Along with that heater comes an over-the-top 12-6 curve that has become a real weapon for him over the years. Go projects very well as a high-leverage guy or even a closer. Now the question is, what do teams feel he is worth?

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