Hot Stove: Pieces falling into place

Hot Stove: Pieces falling into place

Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in just over a month, and the pieces are beginning to fall in place for teams putting together their squads.

Here's how Saturday's Hot Stove action broke down:

Boston gets bullpen help: The Red Sox felt as though they got a bargain by signing Takashi Saito to a one-year deal with an option for 2010.

"He's done an amazing job since coming over from Japan three years ago," said general manager Theo Epstein of the former Dodgers closer. "If you look at his performance and how he's gone about it the last three years, he's been just about as good as anyone in baseball. We were pleased to see him available in free agency, and we engaged and wanted to see if we could work out a contract that made sense for all the sides, and we did."

By doing so, the Red Sox added a pitcher who has 88 career saves and a 1.95 ERA in 180 games. In 2008, he posted a 2.49 ERA in 45 appearances.

"We think he's going to be a big addition to our bullpen, so we can't wait for Spring Training to get started and see him in a Red Sox uniform," Epstein said.

Closing duties still belong to Jonathan Papelbon, but Saito, who will turn 39 in February, gives the Red Sox yet another quality setup arm alongside Hideki Okajima, Justin Masterson, Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Martinez and Javier Lopez.

Braves reach overseas: Kenshin Kawakami is headed to the Braves pending a physical in Atlanta on Monday, and the Japanese right-hander will become the newest addition to general manager Frank Wren's rotation-reconstruction project.

A Major League source confirmed on Saturday that the Braves have reached an agreement with Kawakami, who has spent the past 11 seasons as one of the top pitchers in Japan's Central League. The Braves could make an official announcement on Monday or Tuesday.

Kawakami went 9-5 with a 2.30 ERA in 20 appearances (16 starts) and 117 1/3 innings for the Chunichi Dragons this past season. He missed nearly three weeks in September with a strained back and pitched most of the season in a six-man rotation.

Hot Stove

Johnson deal sealed: First baseman Dan Johnson signed a one-year, $1.2 million contract with the Yokohama BayStars of Japan's Central League on Saturday, according to The Associated Press.

Johnson, 29, played four years in the big leagues and hit .248 with 44 home runs and 161 RBIs with the Athletics and Rays. He made his Major League debut in 2005, with Oakland, and had his best season that year, hitting .275 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs.

Other developments:

• According to the Baltimore Sun, the Orioles appear close to agreeing to terms with free-agent catcher Gregg Zaun on a one-year contract.

• The Phillies have expressed interest in infielder Nomar Garciaparra and outfielder Gabe Kapler, according to and

• The Nationals have interest in acquiring outfielder Xavier Nady and first baseman Nick Swisher from the Yankees. The two clubs are in trade discussions, according to a baseball source.

• Pedro Martinez and the Florida Marlins are believed to be in the beginning stages of negotiating a contract and could meet next week, a source told on Saturday night.

Tom Singer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.