According to former MLB star Carlos Baerga, the Toronto Blue Jays have signed 26-year old, Cuban born right-hander Yariel Rodríguez to a four-year deal. Previous reports suggested that visa requirements are preventing them from making them deal official. The contract value is still unknown, but Jon Becker of FanGraphs' RosterResource tweets the median prediction is for 3 years, $30M.
MLB writer Francys Romero also reports that the deal is done, and that “Rodríguez is expected to do the physical in the coming days in Toronto.”
Rodríguez didn’t play in 2023 after pitching for Cuba in the World Baseball Classic, but went 6-2 with a 1.15 ERA over 54.2 IP, with 60 strikeouts and 18 walks for the Chunichi Dragons of NPB in 2022. As per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required), “After starting again for Cuba last spring in the World Baseball Classic, he sat out the season rather than report back to the Dragons. [MLB] recognized him as a free agent in November after the Dragons released him.”
Toronto was named as one of ten finalists for Rodríguez’s services on November 3rd. As per Jays Journal contributor Edward Eng, “He pitched primarily as a starter in Cuba, compiling a 3.30 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and 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… improving his strikeout rate in the process, [with a] solid 3.03 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, [allowing] only 59 earned runs, along with 77 walks and 188 strikeouts in 175.1 innings [over three seasons].”
This potential signing has been rumoured for a few months now, with ESPN’s Enrique Rojas saying most recently on December 29th that the Blue Jays had “taken the lead”. As Rosenthal notes, “hurdles evidently remain in his immigration, preventing the Jays from completing a deal.”
The 6-foot-1 righty will be starting his age-27 season in 2024, and a 4-year deal would see him through his age 30 season in 2027. Along with Davis Schneider, Alek Manoah and José Berríos (if he doesn’t opt out of his contract after 2026), that makes four notable current players now who would still be on the 40-man roster for the 2027 season.
He could end up in a swingman role and add to the team’s starting pitch depth along with Manoah, Bowden Francis, Mitch White and top Blue Jays prospect Ricky Tiedemann. Regardless, its an incremental move in what so far has been a disappointing offseason for the front office and Blue Jays fans. And if he can freeze MLB hitters like Xander Bogaerts as he did in the video above, he can help!