Yamaguchi's deal with Blue Jays finalized

December 28th, 2019

TORONTO -- Japanese right-hander Shun Yamaguchi passed his physical and is a Blue Jay, the club announced on Friday, the same day it introduced left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu.

The Japanese outlet Sankei Sports first reported on Dec. 17 that Yamaguchi and the Blue Jays were nearing a two-year deal worth nearly $3 million annually. USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported on Friday that the deal is worth $6.35 million, with up to $1.4 million per year in incentives.

Yamaguchi, 32, has pitched 14 professional seasons in Japan, spending the first 11 years of his career with the Yokohama BayStars before joining the Yomiuri Giants in 2017. Originally a reliever who developed into an effective closer for Yokohama, Yamaguchi eventually transitioned to the rotation, where he made 90 starts over his NPB career.

Coming up as a reliever kept Yamaguchi’s innings total low through his 20s. He has thrown just 1,093 1/3 frames in Japan through age 32. After throwing 154 innings in 2018, however, Yamaguchi bumped that up to a total of 170 in 2019, suggesting that he’s able to carry the load over a full Major League season, if that’s the role Toronto envisions for him. That’s yet to be made clear, though, and a swingman role is possible.

Yamaguchi posted a 2.91 ERA last season for Yomiuri, striking out 10.0 batters per nine innings while walking 3.2 per nine. His win total (15) and strikeout total (188) both topped the Japan Central League. The right-hander is not known for his fastball velocity, but instead for his forkball, which he features prominently as a secondary pitch and uses to miss bats.

In 2017, Yamaguchi was suspended for the second half of the NPB season after he was charged with causing bodily harm to a hospital security guard and damage to hospital property while intoxicated. He was receiving treatment on his pitching hand and later issued an apology for the incident.

As part of the Japanese posting system, the Blue Jays also have to pay a release fee to Yamaguchi’s Japanese club. For contracts valued at $25 million or less, the expected range of this potential deal, the release fee is 20 percent of the total guaranteed value of the contract.