There are five major league clubs in pursuit of Yakult Swallows reliever Tony Barnette, MLBTR has learned. The 32-year-old righty was posted with a $500K release fee, as the club previously announced, with the 30-day negotiation window set to expire on December 6th. (Evan Petzold previously tweeted that Barnette was drawing interest. Click here for the applicable posting rules.)
Barnette went to Japan after spending his early career in the Diamondbacks organization. He reached the Triple-A level in his final season in North America, back in 2009, throwing 164 2/3 innings of 5.79 ERA ball with 6.6 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9.
He began his Yakult career in the rotation, but failed to produce in that role. A move to the bullpen in 2011, though, proved fruitful. Outside of a tough 2013 campaign, Barnette has been a quality — and, at times, dominant — relief arm for the Swallows. Last year, he worked to a 1.29 ERA and locked up 41 saves in 62 2/3 frames. In addition to striking out 8.0 and walking 2.7 batters per nine, Barnette permitted just 37 hits and one home run on the year.
As Barnette explained at the time of his posting to John E. Gibson of One World Sports, he is looking to “get my shot at pitching in the MLB.” He called the posting “a win-win situation,” explaining that he’d have a chance to reach the big leagues while making sure his former club gets some compensation for its investment in him over the years.
It’s certainly not a stretch to imagine a team deciding to take a chance on the NPB veteran with a major league contract. There’s precedent, after all. These days, major league deals for minor league free agents are increasingly common. Last winter, for instance, the Pirates gave Radhames Liz a $1MM guarantee after he had rebuilt his career in the KBO — though Liz did have to play for a year in the minors before he landed that contract.