Blue Jays among the “strongest candidates” to sign Cuban pitcher Yariel Rodríguez
23 days ago
The Blue Jays starting rotation is set in stone for next season… except for the fifth starter.
On Friday afternoon, Francys Romero announced that Cuban right-handed pitcher Yariel Rodríguez has become a free agent and is eligible to sign a deal on Friday. Romero reported that the Blue Jays are among the 10 teams who are in the mix to sign the 26-year-old.
According to Romero, Rodríguez’s fastball averages in the 94-97 mph range, with a dominant slider and curveball as secondary pitches. Romero also notes that several industry experts believe that Rodríguez will receive a multi-year deal in the range of $40 million to $70 million.
Rodríguez has spent the last three seasons pitching in the Nippon Professional Baseball, Japan’s version of Major League Baseball. Most recently, he pitched with the Chunichi Dragons, posting a 1.15 ERA in 54.2 innings pitched, along with a 27.5 K% and an 8.3 BB%.
For his three seasons in the NPB, he posted a 3.03 ERA in 175.1 innings pitched with a 25.4 K% and a 10.4 BB%. Rodríguez also spent significant time in Cuba’s professional league, posting a 3.30 ERA in 464.1 innings pitched.
The Blue Jays have a few candidates for the fifth starter next season. One of these candidates is Alek Manoah, who, if he returns to his dominant 2022 self, would easily be the best fifth starter in baseball. Another option is Bowden Francis, who pitched great as a bulk reliever. The 27-year-old posted a 1.73 ERA and a 3.86 FIP in 36.1 innings pitched, along with a 25.7 K% and a 5.9 BB%.
Of course, the Jays could look for external options as well. Free agent Aaron Nola has a track record of excellence, even if his 2023 season was a mixed bag. They could also look overseas for a starter, such as Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who they’ve been scouting quite a few times this season. The Blue Jays also had interest in signing Kyle Gibson last winter but he wound up taking a one-year deal with the Baltimore Orioles. It wouldn’t be surprising to hear Gibson’s name in the rumour mill again this year.
On November 6, free agency begins. It’ll be interesting to see what the Blue Jays game plan is, as they’ll need to fix a few holes, such as a starting pitcher, a handful of relievers, and some power bats.
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