Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara is a free agent after this season, yet it’s been business as usual for the 39-year-old.
Uehara, who entered Wednesday’s game against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards with 13 saves and a 0.65 ERA, is in the midst of another dominant stretch. The Red Sox will have an interesting decision to make when the right-hander hits free agency this offseason, but the right-hander insists he isn’t focused on his uncertain future.
“I never think ahead,” Uehara said through translator C.J. Matsumoto before Tuesday’s game, according to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. “It doesn’t really affect me. If I could change how I perform based on my free agent year, I would. But I can’t so I’m just going to pitch how I can pitch.
“It doesn’t really affect me because I’m an older player. Every year I consider my last year.”
Uehara signed a one-year, $4.25 million contract with the Red Sox before last season that included a vesting option for 2014. The option vested after Uehara’s 55th appearance of 2013, meaning he would spend another season in Boston before hitting the open market for the second time in his career.
The Red Sox, of course, would love to retain Uehara given his success since signing with the club. His price could be steep, though, and the Red Sox ultimately will need to decide whether to make him a one-year qualifying offer that could be worth near $15 million.
If the Sox don’t re-sign Uehara, they’ll lose one of the best closers in baseball. If they do re-sign him, they’ll be committing a large chunk of change to a reliever turning 40 in April. And while Uehara doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon, he did miss time earlier this season with a shoulder issue.
The funniest part of Uehara’s conversation with Bradford? That would be the veteran’s desire to improve on his otherworldly numbers.
“I don’t feel like I’m pitching up to my capabilities,” Uehara said. “I know how the numbers look, but I think I can be better mechanically. I don’t feel like I’m mechanically there. There are certain mechanics I’m trying to achieve. Mechanically, I feel different every day, but there’s a mechanically fit way to pitch and I’m just searching for that. Then again, I’ve been trying to find the perfect mechanics for the past 16 years.”
Well, Uehara definitely is unconventional, both in his repertoire and how he approaches the game.