The Blue Jays struck out on Ha-Seong Kim, the biggest name on this year’s free-agent market from Asia, but the team could still land Tomoyuki Sugano, the best Japanese pitcher available this winter.
Sugano arrived in the United States last week to meet with Major League clubs and his signing window is open until Jan. 7 but Jon Heyman reports that Sugano is expecting to make his decision by Tuesday as to where he’s going to sign.
The Blue Jays, Mets, Padres, Red Sox, Rangers, and Giants are the six teams who have been linked to Sugano, but there’s also always a chance that he sticks around in Japan. As Heyman reports, Sugano apparently has an offer in Japan that features opt-out clauses each year, meaning he could decide to make his move overseas later on once the COVID-19 pandemic clears up.
It seems like Sugano’s market has gotten a little bit smaller over the past few weeks, which could bode well for the Blue Jays.
The Padres, one of the teams linked to Sugano, added Blake Snell and Yu Darvish, so it’s difficult to see them adding another starting pitcher. The Rangers, another team reportedly in the mix, signed another starting pitcher from Japan, Kohei Arihara. Heyman also reported
that the Mets have been in touch, but their focus is elsewhere.
Sugano had an excellent season for the Yomiuri Giants in 2020, posting a 1.97 ERA over the course of 20 starts with a strikeout to walk ratio of 131 to 25. There’s obviously no guarantee that his success will translate to the Major League level, but the Blue Jays badly need starting pitching help, so this would be a risk worth taking.