Toronto Blue Jays: Pursuing Shun Yamaguchi

TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 11: Infielder Ryosuke Kikuchi #4 and Outfielder Yuki Yanagita #22 of Japan high five prior to the game three of Japan and MLB All Stars at Tokyo Dome on November 11, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 11: Infielder Ryosuke Kikuchi #4 and Outfielder Yuki Yanagita #22 of Japan high five prior to the game three of Japan and MLB All Stars at Tokyo Dome on November 11, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images) /
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Japanese website Sanspo.com says the Blue Jays are trying to sign 32-year old RHP Shun Yamaguchi after he helped lead the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) to their first Central League pennant in five years in 2019.

After being formally posted on December 3rd, the Blue Jays front office has apparently been working to sign star Japanese pitcher Shun Yamaguchi. The article suggests they are close on a two-year/$6 million deal, plus 20% of the total guarantee as a transfer fee to be paid to his posting team (the Yomiuri (Tokyo) Giants), with Yamaguchi flying from Hawaii to Toronto on Tuesday for a medical check.

Yamaguchi is a 6’2″, 215lb right-handed pitcher with a fastball averaging 90 mph as a starter, a forkball, and slider. He’s had success in Japan’s top league as both a starter and reliever. He also debuted this year for his national team, making three starts for Japan in the 2019 Premier 12.

In 2019, he went 15-4 record with a 2.91 ERA and 188 strikeouts over 170 innings (10.0 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9), leading the NPB’s Central League in wins, strikeouts and winning percentage. He also led the league in FIP at 3.08 and 6.6 WAR.

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He signed as a free agent with the Giants ahead of the 2016 season after pitching for the Yokohama BayStars over his first eleven seasons after they’d drafted him in the first round of the 2005 NPB draft. If signed, he would be the first Giants player to be involved in the posting system.

"“I will take a shot at my dream of playing in the majors,” Yamaguchi said at a press conference on November 18th. “I’d like to express my appreciation to Yomiuri Giants officials, manager Mr. (Tatsunori) Hara, my coaches, teammates and fans for the past three years. I will work even harder as I pursue a new challenge.”"

By 2009, he had become the BayStars’ top reliever, and in 2012 became the youngest player to record 100 saves. He has been used as a starter since 2014 and has a career record of 64-58 with 112 saves and a 3.35 ERA and 1053 strikeouts over 1080 1/3 innings pitched in NPB.

One caveat of note is that Yamaguchi was suspended for the second half of the 2017 season, after being charged with causing bodily harm to a hospital security guard and damage to hospital property, while intoxicated.

A fun fact about him is that his father is a former sumo wrestler who wrestled under the name Taniarashi. Yamaguchi did some sumo wrestling in school.

Next. Blue Jays should roll the dice on Taijuan Walker. dark

This looks like a decent, under the radar signing. If he can become anything like a Koji Uehara, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Hiroki Kuroda or Hisashi Iwakuma, that would help to improve the Jays pitching in 2020-21.

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