The Blue Jays made the signing of Shun Yamaguchi official on Saturday morning, with the right-hander agreeing to a two-year contract to come to Toronto.
It’s been a busy off-season for the Toronto Blue Jays and the front office team led by Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro. So much so that a few of the moves they’ve made have almost slipped under the radar.
In case you’ve forgotten, the Blue Jays signed Japanese right-hander Shun Yamaguchi to a two-year pact a few weeks ago. At the time many of us (myself included) viewed Yamaguchi’s signing as a back-up plan in case the Jays missed out on the rest of the free agent pursuits, but they’ve since landed the big fish they were after by agreeing with Hyun-Jin Ryu, who has mostly stolen the spotlight.
The Blue Jays introduced Ryu at a big press conference on Friday, and followed that up by making the signing of Yamaguchi official earlier today. The deal has been reported as being worth approximately six million over the two years, and has the potential to deliver a good bargain for Atkins and company.
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Now that Ryu is in the fold, Yamaguchi will more than likely join a bullpen mix that could certainly use his services. In addition to having Ryu at the top, the rotation should also feature Tanner Roark, Chase Anderson, and Matt Shoemaker, with the fifth spot coming down to a battle between Ryan Borucki, Trent Thornton, Anthony Kay, and possibly others. Yamaguchi could also be in the mix for that role, but more likely will pitch out of the bullpen.
The 32-year-old was very good last season in Japan, pitching to a 15-4 record with a 2.91 ERA and a 1.159 WHIP over 170 innings, striking out 188 against 60 walks. He doesn’t have a big fastball, but comes with a solid assortment of pitches that should translate fairly well to Major League Baseball, especially if he’s pitching in a relief role.
For all of the criticism that the Blue Jays’ front office has faced over the last few months, they’ve slowly but surely made some significant improvements to the pitching staff. Hopefully Yamaguchi can find success in whatever role he ends up in, and now that the picture is a lot more clear, he could be a quietly important addition.
Welcome to the Blue Jays Mr. Yamaguchi! I think you’ll like it here.