The Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball have re-signed right-hander Thyago Vieira and first baseman/outfielder Zelous Wheeler, according to reports out of Japan. Both players will be entering their third season with the Giants, though Wheeler is a longtime veteran of NPB, having also played with the Rakuten Golden Eagles from 2015-2019.
Vieira tossed 25 2/3 innings over parts of three seasons with the Mariners and White Sox from 2017-19, with a 7.36 ERA to show from this brief taste of the majors. The hard-throwing righty found his groove after joining the Tokyo-based Giants prior to the 2020 campaign, and he has a 3.04 ERA and a 26.9% strikeout rate over 80 relief innings in the last two seasons. A 12.4% walk rate represents the down side of those numbers, as Vieira’s big fastball has been undermined by a lack of control both in American and Japanese baseball.
Back in October, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported that as many as five big league clubs had interest in bringing Vieira back to North America, though no deal materialized prior to the lockout. It could be that Vieira simply preferred to remain in a familiar environment rather than compete with a rush of other pitchers scrambling for contracts once the transactions freeze eventually ends, as there wasn’t necessarily a sure thing that Vieira would even have landed a guaranteed Major League deal.
Wheeler turns 35 next month, and though his only MLB experience was 62 plate appearances with the Yankees in 2014, the veteran is now set to enter his 16th season in pro ball. A 19th-round pick for the Brewers back in 2007, Wheeler spent eight years in the Milwaukee, Baltimore, and New York organizations before embarking on what has become a lengthy stint in Japan. Wheeler has hit .264/.339/.458 with 133 home runs over his 3107 plate appearances in NPB, bouncing back from a down year in 2020 to hit .290/.358/.477 with 15 homers in 439 PA for last season’s Giants club.