According to Francys Romero, the Toronto Blue Jays have agreed to a contract with free agent right-hander and Cuban product Yariel Rodríguez, pending physical. The deal/terms are reported to be a four-year pact worth $32 million with incentives and Enrique Rojas at ESPN added that the pitcher is currently waiting for a visa to leave the Dominican Republic to take the physical.
Rodríguez has been on of the most interesting free agent arms of the offseason, as the right-hander has spent the last three seasons pitching overseas in Nippon Professional Baseball with the Chunichi Dragons.
He did not pitch this year and instead trained in the Dominican as he pursued an MLB deal, leading to the Dragons to release the pitcher from his deal and the MLB making him a free agent earlier this winter. Prior to joining the Dragons, Rodríguez pitched at the top level in Cuba through parts of six seasons starting when he was 18 years old.
With the Dragons, Rodríguez authored a 3.03 ERA through 79 appearances (mostly in relief) and had a breakout 2022 campaign, where he pitched to a 1.15 ERA in 56 relief outings while allowing just seven earned runs compared to a 9.9 K/9 and a 0.915 WHIP.
Report – Blue Jays agree to terms with Cuban Yariel Rodríguez
Earlier this year, Rodríguez represented Team Cuba at the World Baseball Classic, starting two games and going 7 1/3 innings in the tournament. The 26-year-old struck out 10 batters while holding opponents to a .200 average while walking six.
He started the first game of the WBC for Cuba, going four innings while allowing one run against the Netherlands, and later made the Quarterfinals start against Australia, holding them to two hits and one run while walking five and striking out four through 3 1/3 innings.
The interesting case for Rodríguez is his versatility, as the Blue Jays can use him in either a starting role or in the bullpen this year and beyond. He has found more success as a reliever when he was pitching with the Dragons but has showcased the stamina and ability to pitch deep into games, making him a possible back-end starter or a long-man reliever type that can either open games or eat up multiple innings as needed.
Considering he didn’t pitch competitively in 2023 outside of the WBC, it wouldn’t be surprising if the club uses him in the bullpen this year while exploring a starter transition next offseason when Yusei Kikuchi is free agent eligible.
Adding Rodríguez does not necessarily mean the Jays will be looking to trade from their starting depth, namely Alek Manoah, given the fact that Rodríguez can either slot in multiple different roles.
Adding Rodríguez means the Blue Jays will need to clear space from their full 40-man roster to make room for their new pitcher. Experts and reporters alike are predicting a multi-year deal worth $8-10 million AAV.