Less than a day after rumors swirled that the Blue Jays were set to acquire reliever Koji Uehara from the Texas Rangers, Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas, via MLB Trade Rumors, reported that the right-hander actually rejected the move altogether by exercising his limited no-trade clause. Uehara was able to block a trade to only six teams and the Blue Jays were one of them, unfortunately.
In his article, Durrett cites Uehara’s unwillingness to move his family from Baltimore to Toronto as the main reason the deal was vetoed, but thanks to a Yahoo! Japan article (poorly translated to English by Google) and some help from Yusuke Ueno, one of my followers on Twitter (@inter_ueno), there’s a lot more to the story.
Before Uehara nixed the deal, the Jays were prepared to part with a “young hitter” in the trade and ready to pick up the $4 million salary that he is owed in 2012. But in addition to being against moving his family from Baltimore, Uehara was also turned off from the fact that his family would require immigration checks for moving between the United States and Canada.
Having pitched for the Orioles and in the AL East for the first two-and-a-half years of his Major League career, Uehara apparently wasn’t thrilled about a return to the division, either. That’s an interesting bit to read, as I had the privilege of interviewing Uehara over at The Good Point a few days after he was traded to the Rangers and he clearly conveyed his fondness for Baltimore and an interest in returning.
In the Yahoo! Japan article, Uehara also addressed the Blue Jays specifically, saying that the team is less likely to win and that the living conditions in Toronto aren’t as appealing to a player’s family, with the article even hinting that trade refusals to Toronto are common because of this.
Uehara, obviously, would have been a welcome addition to the Jays’ bullpen. After being used as a starter in 2009, the Orioles converted him to a reliever in 2010, where he really found his groove. In his two seasons as a full-time reliever, Uehara has logged a 2.56 ERA and amassed 140 strikeouts to 14 walks for an uncanny 10.0 K:BB ratio in 109 combined innings.
But after the Rangers signed Joe Nathan over the offseason and the likelihood that Alexi Ogando will return to the bullpen following the addition of Neftali Feliz to the rotation, the Rangers were in a position to make a move with Uehara.
For Uehara, the decision to remain with the Rangers is a no-brainer. In addition to getting playoff experience in 2011 (even though he was left off of the World Series roster), Uehara remains on a contending team that also boasts two of his countrymen, Yu Darvish and Yoshinori Tateyama.