2024-01-18 · 2 min read · MLB/Baseball
Cuban righty Yariel Rodriguez

Toru Hanai/The Associated Press | Gene Wang

It took a while, but Toronto’s finally made a notable offseason move.
Announced by ex-Major Leaguer Carlos Baerga, the Blue Jays are signing Cuban righty Yariel Rodriguez to a four-year, $32 million deal, pending a physical. Rodriguez will make his way to Toronto in the coming days to make it official.
It’s an interesting signing - Rodriguez has never pitched in affiliated ball with any MLB organization, but has dominated in both Japan and Cuba. Most recently, he became one of the centerpoints of the Cuban National team when he pitched for them in the 2023 WBC. His stock grew tenfold thanks to terrific performances on the mound throughout Cuba’s run, but remained unsigned following the tournament.
Entering this offseason, Rodriguez was all but guaranteed an MLB deal - he had multiple offers on the table, per reports, though Toronto appeared most interested all throughout. The 26-year old righty most recently pitched for the Chunichi Dragons in Japan, amassing a 3.03 ERA over three seasons while tossing a combined 175 ⅓ IP. 2022 was his best year, when Rodriguez won NPB’s Reliever of the Year after posting a 1.15 ERA over 54 ⅔ innings, striking out 60. He did not allow a home run during that stretch.
Upon his arrival to the Blue Jays, his role with the staff remains a mystery; some suggest that he’ll begin the 2024 season in AAA to build up some length in the hopes that he retains an ability to start while others see him sliding right into Toronto’s bullpen immediately. Nothing is confirmed at this point, with Spring Training likely playing a major role in the team’s plan for him. Currently, Toronto’s rotation appears as some combination of Gausman, Bassitt, Berrios, Kikuchi, and Manoah - that is, if no other moves are made.
John Schneider has already confirmed that Alek Manoah will receive every opportunity to solidify himself as a member of the starting five, though after his disastrous 2023 that is far from a sure thing. The other man in the mix is top prospect Ricky Tiedemann, the club’s hotshot 21-year old lefty who is on pace to make his Major League debut at some point during this upcoming season.
In addition to bullpen shuffling, the club will also have to make a decision on who is removed from the 40-man roster. Righties Mitch White and Trevor Richards both seem like obvious targets, though White ended his 2023 with a stretch of strong outings in Buffalo and Richards just inked an arbitration deal. All this is barring another signing, perhaps of reigning NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell whom reports suggest Toronto is keeping tabs on.
With pitchers and catchers reporting to Dunedin in less than a month, it will be Rodriguez’ first taste of organized ball since his aforementioned ‘22 season with Chunichi. Ex-MLB’ers Michael Feliz, Humberto Mejia, Orlando Calixte and Dayan Viciedo also played on Rodriguez’s 2022 team.
Toronto’s first non-intrasquad game will be on February 24th against Philadelphia.
Sports Tree Profile

By: Gus Cousins


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