9:40am: Kaitlyn McGrath of The Athletic reports that the fifth year on Rodriguez’s contract is a player option valued at $6MM. If Rodriguez declines that option, the team will then have the ability to exercise a $10MM club option. That could take the contract to $36MM over five years, though Francys Romero reports that the total money can climb as high as $40MM, which suggests there are some additional incentives baked into the arrangement.
9:12am: After a lengthy wait, the Blue Jays have formally announced their signing of right-hander Yariel Rodriguez. It’s a five-year, $32MM deal for Rodriguez, per the team, as opposed to the four years and $32MM that was previously reported. In order to open a spot on the 40-man roster, Toronto has designated utilityman Otto Lopez for assignment. Rodriguez is jointly represented by WME and Born To Play.
It’s been more than three weeks since Rodriguez and the Jays agreed to terms on a contract, but he’s been unable to finalize the pact while awaiting a visa allowing him to enter either Canada or the United States. The expectation has been that whenever Rodriguez acquired the requisite documentation to enter either country, a physical would be completed and the deal would be finalized in short order.
Just 26 years old, Rodriguez has starred for los Ganaderos de Camaguey in his native Cuba and for the Chunichi Dragons in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. His work in NPB, in particular, caught the eye of Major League scouts, and with good reason. Rodriguez’s 3.03 ERA in three seasons with the Dragons is impressive on its own, but his most recent season featured 54 2/3 overwhelmingly dominant innings: a 1.15 ERA, 27.5% strikeout rate and 8.2% walk rate out of the Chunichi bullpen.
It should be noted, of course, that those numbers came during the 2022 NPB season — not in 2023. Rodriguez pitched for Team Cuba during last year’s World Baseball Classic but did not return to the Dragons for the 2023 season as he set his sights on a move to Major League Baseball. The Dragons placed him on the restricted list for the 2023 season and granted him his release in early November. He’s since hosted multiple showcases for MLB teams and been viewed as one of the more fascinating free agents on the market.
Of course, Rodriguez is also one of the most volatile free agents in play this winter; it’s hard enough to project how much of a player’s success in the Cuban National Series and/or in NPB might carry over to an MLB setting — but that’s all the more complicated when he didn’t even pitch during the preceding season outside of a brief WBC appearance. There’s a good bit of upside, to be sure, but given the long layoff, acclimation to a new culture and step up in overall level off competition, there’s a wide range of plausible outcomes for Rodriguez in MLB — specifically in his first season.
It’s not yet clear just what role Rodriguez will fill with the Jays. He made some starts…
Read More: Blue Jays Announce Yariel Rodriguez Deal, DFA Otto Lopez 2024-02-09 15:56:15