Details emerge on Yariel Rodriguez's deal with Blue Jays, including unique clause

World Baseball Classic Quarterfinals: Australia v Cuba
World Baseball Classic Quarterfinals: Australia v Cuba / Kenta Harada/GettyImages

Cuban standout Yariel Rodriguez has officially signed with the Toronto Blue Jays and is expected to be part of the club's starting rotation battle this spring.

The right-hander signed a four-year, $32M contract with the Jays that could go as long as five years thanks to a player option, reports Kaitlyn McGrath of The Athletic. If Rodriguez declines the $6M option, the Jays have the ability to exercise a $10M club option on their end.

A full breakdown of Rodriguez's contract looks something like this:

  • 2024: $8M signing bonus, $2M salary
  • 2025: $5M
  • 2026: $5M
  • 2027: $6M

While plans have not officially been announced by any Blue Jays executives, sources have confirmed to Jays Journal that Rodriguez is being brought aboard as a starting pitcher and could potentially begin the year in Triple-A to get additional reps on the mound.

Rodriguez, 26, spent 2020-2022 in Japan pitching for the Chunichi Dragons but was used almost exclusively as a relief pitcher. He had a sparkling 2.95 ERA in 2021 and 1.15 in 2022, dominating the opposition through and through. His history as a starter was enough for the Jays to bring him aboard in such a role, even if he doesn't crack the big league rotation right away.

Interestingly, Rodriguez's contract comes with a ton of incentives (as highlighted here by The Associated Press). Of even more interest, though, is the fact that he can be optioned to Triple-A without his permission for this season only (hat tip to Sportsnet's Shi Davidi).

The fact that he'll be able to be sent down without his permission is important, as he's going to need the extra time to build up. You'll notice that he did not pitch professionally at all last year, but that was not because of injury. Instead, he sat out, essentially in protest, and waited for the Dragons to grant him his release. How much that harms Rodriguez in the long run remains to be seen, but he's going to be given a chance to compete for a spot in the Jays' rotation moving forward.

With Rodriguez, the Blue Jays are going to handle with care but with a fair share of flexibility. If Alek Manoah is able to deliver on the hype he's been earning this offseason with his workout videos, he should firmly be locked into the rotation. He'll line up alongside Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassitt, Jose Berrios and Yusei Kikuchi. If Manoah excels, Rodriguez's role, at least for the 2024 season, may just be as long-reliever/sixth starter.