With the MLB free agency upon us, the Toronto Blue Jays are ready to get into action soon as they look to retool their roster for the upcoming season. But even before anything has even started, the Jays have been linked to an intriguing Cuban free agent pitcher that is currently being coveted by many other teams. They are now among the ten finalists vying for the services of flamethrowing right-handed pitcher Yariel Rodríguez.
According to MLB Trade Rumors, the Cuban sensation made his professional baseball debut in Cuba back in 2015 before eventually joining the Chunichi Dragons in the Japan League in 2020. He pitched primarily as a starter in Cuba, compiling a 3.30 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, giving up only 20 home runs while striking out 357 in 464.1 innings across six seasons. Upon moving to Japan, Rodríguez was converted mainly into a reliever role in which he has since prospered and improved his strikeout rate in the process. Over the past three seasons with the Dragons, he has accumulated a solid 3.03 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, giving up only 59 earned runs, along with 77 walks and 188 strikeouts in 175.1 innings of work. In particular, he posted his best numbers in his career in 2022 when he went 6-2 with a stellar 1.15 ERA and 0.92 WHIP, giving up no home runs all season in 54.2 innings pitched.
On the international stage, Rodríguez pitched for Team Cuba at the 2023 World Baseball Classic in which he allowed just two runs on five hits while striking out 10 in 7.1 innings of work. However, following the tournament, he did not return to the Dragons as he worked towards signing with a potential MLB club. After a few months on their restricted list, the Dragons ultimately granted his release on October 5 and made Rodríguez officially a free agent.
Rodríguez possesses a strong five-pitch arsenal in which he primarily uses his slow curveball and wicked slider to complement his fastball that averages out at 95-96 MPH and tops out in the 97 MPH range. His high spin rates and movement on those pitches certainly will catch the eye of many teams. He would also occasionally throw in his splitter and changeup that ranges in the high 80s to keep the hitters off-balance and guessing all the time.
Rodríguez is projected to receive a multi-year contract around five years in the range of $40-70 million. He would definitely be a strong addition to the Jays bullpen, as well as potentially a back-end-of-the-rotation starter if the team wanted to convert him back into a starting role to help fill the void in the rotation. Nevertheless, we should know in the near future if the Jays end up being successful in recruiting the Cuban sensation.