Boston — The Red Sox have signed Koji Uehara for two more years, committing $18 million to the reliever who closed out the 2013 World Series but struggled along with the team this season.
One year to the day after Uehara struck out Matt Carpenter to seal Boston's third title in 10 years, the team gave him a deal that will pay him $9 million in each of the next two years, when he will be 40 and 41 years old. General manager Ben Cherington said he thought Uehara had less wear and tear on his arm than other pitchers his age.
"You're really looking at a guy who has been one of the elite relievers in baseball," Cherington said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday night. "We feel really good about the ninth inning when he's pitching out there with a lead. It was a priority for us to retain him."
Uehara joined the Red Sox in 2013 and inherited the closer's role midway through the season, helping to stabilize the bullpen that was a key contributor to the title. He finished the regular season with a 1.09 ERA and 21 saves in 24 chances and then recorded seven saves and a 0.66 ERA in the postseason, when he was named the MVP of the American League Championship Series.
Uehara converted his first 15 save opportunities this season to run his streak to 31 in a row — the second-longest in franchise history — and made the All-Star team for the first time. In a span of 21 innings from May 3 to June 16, he did not allow a run.
But after making the All-Star game for the first time, Uehara stumbled in mid-August and allowed 10 runs in his next six outings while blowing three straight save opportunities. He finished the season with three scoreless outings and a 6-5 record with 26 saves and a 2.52 ERA.
"We felt really comfortable with where he was and where he will be going," Cherington said. "We were able to look at the whole body of work. He's been an elite performer for two full seasons."
Before coming to Boston, Uehara spend 10 seasons with Yomiuri of Japan's Central League, leading the Giants to two Japan Series championships. He also pitched for Japan in two Olympics and led the country to the gold medal at the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006.
In six major-league seasons with the Orioles, Rangers and Red Sox, he has a 15-15 record with 61 saves and a 2.44 ERA. With 46 walks and 412 strikeouts in 351 1-3 innings, he has the best career strikeout-to-walk ratio and of any pitcher in baseball history with at least 100 innings.
Also Thursday, the Red Sox said that outfielder Rusney Castillo will be held out for the remainder of the Arizona Fall League schedule after straining the muscle between his thumb and fingers.
"It's an injury that will respond well to rest," Cherington said. "It's not a concern moving forward, but we do want to let it calm down."
On the day that catcher David Ross and right-hander Burke Badenhop elected free agency, Cherington said the team was still hopeful it could sign lefty Jon Lester.
"He's a free agent and obviously we know him well," Cherington said. "We hope we get a chance to talk to him."
Notable transactions Thursday:
■Center fielder Denard Span is staying with the Nationals, who exercised their $9 million option for 2015 on his contract, while declining options on first baseman Adam LaRoche ($15 million) and reliever Rafael Soriano ($14 million).
■The Angels exercised their $7 million contract option on closer Huston Street, and declined their $4.5 million option on reliever Sean Burnett, who missed most of the season after elbow ligament replacement surgery.
■The Reds exercised Johnny Cueto's $10 million contract option but decided to let outfielder Ryan Ludwick ($9 million) and infielder Jack Hannahan ($4 million) walk.
■The Cardinals have exercised their 2015 contract option on starting pitcher John Lackey, which is at the major league minimum because of an injury clause in his contract.
■The Mariners announced Thursday that starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma's $7 million option was vested based on his on-field performance.
■Dodgers starting pitcher Dan Haren exercised his $10 million player option for next season.
■The Phillies declined a $6 million club option on ailing relief pitcher Mike Adams.
■The A's declined to exercise their $5.5 million contract option for shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima.
■The Cubs declined their option for next season on reliever Kyuji Fujikawa.
Alex Rodriguez's season-long suspension formally ended Thursday, a day after the World Series ended.
The Yankees reinstated the third baseman from the restricted list.
Rodriguez was suspended by Major League Baseball for violations of the sport's drug agreement and labor contract and lost just over $22 million of his $25 million salary. The three-time AL MVP, who turns 40 on July 27, is owed $61 million by the Yankees over the next three seasons. New York general manager Brian Cashman said it's possible Rodriguez may see some time at first base.
New York did not have to make a move on its 40-man roster because 10 players became free agents, including Derek Jeter, David Robertson, Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki. Jeter, the Yankees' captain, is retiring.
Royals, Blue Jays make trade
The Royals have acquired minor league catcher Santiago Nessy from the Blue Jays for right-handed pitcher Liam Hendricks one day after losing the World Series.
The 21-year-old Nessy appeared in 69 games for Single-A Lansing and Dunedin this season, hitting .231 with a homer and 28 RBIs. He's spent the past four years in the Blue Jays' minor league system after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Venezuela.
The 25-year-old Hendricks joined the Royals along with backup catcher Erik Kratz in the July 29 trade that sent Danny Valencia to Toronto. Hendriks was designated for assignment on Oct. 25.
World Series ratings announced
An estimated 23.5 million people watched the Giants' 3-2 win over the Royals in Game 7, enabling the matchup to escape the distinction of least-watched World Series.
The Nielsen company said Thursday that more people watched the previous night's contest than any other World Series game since the 2011 Game 7 between St. Louis and Texas (25.4 million).
It was 10 million more people than tuned in to any of the previous six games between the Giants and the Royals. Nielsen said the peak average audience came during the last inning, when 27.8 million people saw MVP Madison Bumgarner record the last out.
The series overall averaged 13.8 million viewers, second only to the Giants' four-game sweep of the Tigers in 2012 as the series with the smallest audience.
Golden Era ballot unveiled
Gil Hodges, Luis Tiant and Maury Wills are among 10 candidates on the Hall of Fame ballot for its Golden Era committee.
Michigan native Jim Kaat, Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva and Billy Pierce also are on the ballot. The only non-player is Bob Howsam, the late Cincinnati Reds general manager.
Allen, Howsam, Pierce and Wills are on the ballot for the first time. A 16-member committee will convene Dec. 7-8 at the winter meetings in San Diego to consider the candidates, whose most significant impact was from 1947-72.
Ron Santo was elected by the committee in 2011 with 15 votes. Kaat received 10 votes; Hodges and Minoso nine each; and Oliva eight.