Left-hander Conner Menez is in agreement with the Nippon-Ham Fighters of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, the club informed reporters (Japanese-language link from Yahoo! Japan). Menez announced the agreement on Instagram this afternoon.
While Menez had been playing with the Cubs’ top affiliate in Iowa, he’s been granted his release to pursue the overseas opportunity. Salary terms have not been disclosed, but he’ll surely make more with the Hokkaido-based club than he would’ve in Iowa.
Menez made the briefest of appearances with the Cubs this season. Signed to a minor league deal over the offseason, he was selected onto the major league roster in early May. He pitched a scoreless inning during a loss to the Diamondbacks a few days later, then found himself optioned back to Iowa. The Cubs designated him for assignment two weeks back upon selecting Caleb Kilian onto the 40-man roster. Menez cleared waivers and returned to Triple-A, making three more appearances before departing the organization.
The former 14th-round pick had an excellent showing in the upper minors this season. He tallied 21 innings across 11 outings, working to a 2.14 ERA with a quality 28.7% strikeout rate. That work caught the attention of the Fighters’ front office. In announcing the agreement, general manager Atsunori Inaba suggested he would step into a high-leverage relief role.
Menez has appeared in parts of four MLB seasons, spending the 2019-21 campaigns with the Giants before this year’s cup of coffee in Chicago. He’s worked to a decent 3.95 ERA through 43 1/3 innings at the big league level, but his stock took a hit when he struggled in Triple-A last season. Menez’s much better showing in Iowa gets him an opportunity in Japan’s top league. Having just turned 27 years old, he’s certainly young enough to reappear on the MLB radar a year or two down the line if he shows well in NPB.