TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays have reached agreement with Shun Yamaguchi pending a physical, making a rare delve into the Asian market to further bolster their pitching staff, an industry source told Sportsnet.
Terms of the deal couldn’t be immediately confirmed, but the Japanese sports daily Sankei Sports reported it would be for two years and $3 million annually. The Japanese right-hander is available through the posting system, with his negotiation window expiring Wednesday.
Under the posting system, the Yomiuri Giants, Yamaguchi’s former team, are entitled to 20 per cent of his first $25 million in earnings from the signing club.
Yamaguchi would be an intriguing addition for the Blue Jays, who have been in hot pursuit of another Asian pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers free agent lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu, in recent weeks.
The 32-year-old led Japan’s Central League in strikeouts (188 in 170 innings) and wins (15) this past season, allowing 137 hits and 60 walks. He served as a closer early in his career with the Yokohama Bay Stars before transitioning to the rotation.
Yamaguchi potentially joins a Blue Jays rotation set to include Tanner Roark, Chase Anderson and potentially Matt Shoemaker, Trent Thornton and Ryan Borucki. Alternatively, he could be an option for the bullpen, too.
The Blue Jays last signed a Japanese player in January 2015 when infielder Munenori Kawasaki agreed to a minor-league deal. Outfielder Nori Aoki was acquired from the Houston Astros as part of the trade that landed Teoscar Hernandez in 2017 but appeared in only 12 games before he was released.
The club’s limited history with Japanese players also includes a half-season of Tomo Ohka, but the team views Asia as an area of opportunity and has sought to be more active there.