Yariel Rodriguez of Team Cuba reacts while leaving the mound in the third inning during the 2023 World Baseball Classic Quarterfinal game between Team Australia and Team Cuba at Tokyo Dome on Wednesday, March 15, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Yuki Taguchi/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
Cuban right-handed pitcher Yariel Rodriguez signed a four-year, $32 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays on January 17, Francys Romero of beisbolfr.com reported.
Rodriguez, 26, was born in Camaguey, Cuba, and left for the Dominican Republic in March prior to the end of the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
Rodriguez was declared a free agent by the Major League Baseball Commissioner’s office on November 3.
He was released from his contract by the Chunichi Dragons of Nippon Professional Baseball on Oct. 5, 2023. The Dragons placed him on the restricted list in late March after he left Havana.
Rodriguez’s contract in Japan with the Chunichi Dragons was ngeotiated by the Federacion Cubana de Beisbol.
Rodriguez started two games during the 2023 World Baseball Classic, recording a 2.45 ERA and throwing 7.1 innings, allowing five hits, two earned runs, walking six batters, and striking out 10 with a 1.50 WHIP. Rodriguez helped Cuba reach the semifinals at loanDepot Park in Miami, where they lost to the United States 14-2.
In the 2022 season with the Dragons, Rodriguez appeared out of the bullpen in 56 games, going 6-2 with a 1.15 ERA, throwing 54.2 innings and allowing 32 hits, seven earned runs, no home runs, 18 walks, and striking out 60 batters with a 0.915 WHIP.
During his three seasons in NPB, Rodriguez posted a 10-10 record with a 3.03 ERA, throwing 175.1 innings and allowing 138 hits, 59 earned runs, 12 home runs, 77 walks, and 188 strikeouts with a 1.226 WHIP.
According to ESPN, “Rodriguez’s fastball tops out in the mid-90s.”
Rodriguez threw in front of scouts at a showcase event that at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, during late October.
Rodriguez will be competing for a starting role and bullpen role with the Blue Jays during spring training. Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassitt, Jose Berrios, Yusei Kikuchi and Hyun Jin Ryu are also in the mix for the starting rotation for Toronto prior to the start of the 2024 season.
The Blue Jays will have their pitchers and catchers report on February 15.
The Blue Jays will play their first game of spring training on February 24 against the Philadelphia Phillies in Dunedin, Fla. at TD Ballpark at 1:07 p.m. EST.