Ever since coming over to the States, Yusei Kikuchi has always shown flashes of his utmost potential on the mound in the past five years. However, he has often struggled with command and control despite having the stuff that would have put him among the elite if harnessed correctly. As a result, he has compiled a somewhat disappointing 32-37 record with a 4.71 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in 134 games played thus far in his MLB career.
However, Kikuchi did manage to put together his best season to date in 2023 when he went a stellar 11-6 with a 3.86 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, along with 181 strikeouts in just 167.2 innings pitched. He even had a dominant six-game stretch following the All-Star break in which he put up a minuscule 1.29 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in helping the Jays win four of those six games. In spite of that, some glimpses of his inconsistency would rear its head in inopportune times, as in his final eight games of the season, he struggled by putting up a 5.26 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. Those numbers once again resembled what he has constantly posted throughout his career.
Nevertheless, Kikuchi will start the 2024 season firmly in the Jays’ back end of the rotation. But with Kikuchi also entering his final year of his contract with the ballclub, he will be a prime candidate to be gone by the trade deadline whether or not the Jays are still in contention by then. That is because if Jays aren’t, Kikuchi would be a strong trade chip to recoup back some assets to help the ballclub in future years. If the Jays are still in contention, they will likely look for an upgrade in the rotation at the deadline that could provide much more consistency and reliability than Kikuchi can provide heading into the stretch run and eventually the playoffs.