Right-hander John Gant has signed with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball, as first reported by Daily Sports in Japan. The team has not yet formally announced the agreement, but sources confirmed the deal to MLBTR. It’s a one-year contract.
Gant, 29, elected free agency early in the offseason after the Twins passed him through outright waivers. The longtime Cardinals righty landed in Minnesota (alongside minor league lefty Evan Sisk) via the deadline trade that sent J.A. Happ to St. Louis.
The 2021 campaign was something off a mixed bag for Gant. Although he posted a plenty respectable 4.09 ERA in 110 innings, he also logged the second-lowest strikeout rate (18.7%), the highest walk rate (14.5%) and the lowest average fastball velocity (92.4 mph) of his six-year Major League career. He’d have been arbitration-eligible for the final time this winter had the Twins opted to keep him on the 40-man roster.
While Gant has never been a dominant strikeout arm or a pinpoint command specialist, he still carries a very solid 3.89 ERA through 372 2/3 Major League frames. He was particularly effective out of the St. Louis bullpen from 2019-20, pitching to a combined 3.43 ERA with a near-identical 3.44 FIP through 81 1/3 frames. He fanned 23.6% of his opponents against a 12.4% walk rate during that time, adding a hearty 49% grounder rate as well.
Gant has worked as both a starter and a reliever in his big league career thus far, with a good bit more success in relief than out of the rotation. The Fighters, however, could potentially deploy him in the rotation. Former big leaguers Drew VerHagen and Robbie Erlin both made some starts for the Fighters this past season — the former more effective and more heavily used than the latter — but both became free agents at season’s end. Gant is the second former big leaguer to join the Fighters late this week, as they announced a deal with infielder Arismendy Alcantara earlier today.