Brewers Add Saito to Bullpen Mix

Japanese media interview Atlanta Braves Takashi Saito prior to playing the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park in San Francisco on October 7, 2010. The Giants defeated the Braves 1-0 in the first game of the Natoinal League Divisional Series.  UPI/Terry Schmitt Photo via Newscom

Takashi Saito is coming to Milwaukee, according to a report by Nikkan Sports that was translated by the Japanese baseball blog NPB Tracker on Twitter (h/t HardballTalk). It was originally thought that Saito will make $3 million plus incentives over one year, but Adam McCalvy corrected those early reports — Saito will be making under $2 million in base salary, with possible bonuses pushing it up to around $3.2 million.

Originally I had a bad feeling about this deal, as I recalled seeing Saito’s name listed as a Type A free agent on various sites listing the Elias Rankings. The Brewers won’t have to worry about giving up their second round pick, however, because Saito was not offered arbitration by Atlanta. I had obviously missed the story — originally reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution — back in October that Saito’s deal with the Braves prevented them from doing so and stated that he must be released at the end of the contract.

On the field, there’s a lot to like about Saito — he’s posted K/9 rates above 10 in four of his five seasons in America, and rates above 11 in three of those five. He’s shown great control for a reliever, putting up a career BB/9 rate of 2.83 in 299.1 innings. Jack Moore said at Disciples of Uecker that Saito is probably the best reliever in the bullpen now, and it’s hard to argue that point based on past performance.

While the fact that the team won’t have to surrender a draft pick removes most of the initial concern I had, there is still some reason to worry. Shoulder tendinitis limited Saito to just 5.2 innings in September, and he will turn 41 in February. He looks to be a very good addition to the bullpen, but you have to hope the Brewers aren’t depending on him to throw 50 innings this year.

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