FEB 13: Having gone unclaimed, the Blue Jays released Yamaguchi, per Scott Mitchell of TSN Sports (via Twitter). They will nevertheless remain on the hook for the $3.175MM owed to Yamaguchi this season.
FEB 11: The Blue Jays have designated right-hander Shun Yamaguchi for assignment, tweets Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae. The team hasn’t formally announced the move, though it’s listed on their transactions log at MLB.com. It seems that’ll create roster space for last night’s reported waiver pickup of righty Joel Payamps.
Toronto signed Yamaguchi, 33, to a two-year deal worth a guaranteed $6.35MM last offseason. The former Yomiuri Giants and Yokohama BayStars righty had a 14-year run of success in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, working both as an effective closer and a high-quality rotation piece at various points of his career there. Through 1080 1/3 NPB frames, Yamaguchi notched a tidy 3.35 ERA (3.22 if you exclude his ugly NPB debut as a teenager) with 112 saves, a 23.1 percent strikeout rate and a 9.1 percent walk rate.
The Blue Jays used Yamaguchi out of the bullpen exclusively in 2020, and the results simply never came through as the team hoped. The right-hander appeared in 17 games and yielded at least one run in 10 of those outings. His overall 8.06 ERA is skewed to some extent by a seven-run implosion at Yankee Stadium, but even setting that aside Yamaguchi’s ERA still would’ve clocked in north of 5.00. His 21.7 percent strikeout rate, meanwhile, was a bit below par, while his 14.2 percent walk rate was well north of the league average.
Yamaguchi is still owed $3.175MM in 2021, and the Jays will have to eat that salary. They have a week to trade him, run him throughout outright waivers or simply release him, though it’s difficult to imagine any club taking on Yamaguchi’s salary — particularly at a time when most teams have been overwhelmingly stingy about their budgets.