Jose Osuna announced on his Instagram page that he has signed with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of Nippon Professional Baseball. Pirates GM Ben Cherington recently suggested that Osuna would be heading to play in Asia after Pittsburgh designated Osuna for assignment and subsequently released him earlier this week. In addition to Osuna, the Swallows seem to be close to landing another recent big leaguer, as multiple reports out of Japan have Astros right-hander Cy Sneed in talks with the Tokyo club.
Over four seasons and 705 plate appearances with the Pirates, Osuna hit .241/.280/.430 and saw significant playing time at first base, third base, and both corner outfield positions. This versatility didn’t help him keep a job on the Bucs’ roster, however, as the DFA essentially represented an early non-tender. Osuna was projected to earn $1.1MM in his first trip through the arbitration process.
An international signing out of Venezuela in 2009, Osuna has spent his entire 11-year pro career in the Pirates organization, so the move to NPB will represent a particularly notable change of scenery. Osuna doesn’t turn 28 until December, so there’s plenty of time for him to get his career on track and then weigh continuing playing in Japan or perhaps exploring a return to North American baseball.
Sneed is also entering his age-28 season, and the righty has a 5.59 ERA, 2.93 K/BB rate, and 10.2 K/9 over 38 2/3 career innings with Houston at the Major League level. Home runs have been a big issue for Sneed (1.9 HR/9), but he also had some bad luck, with a .367 BABIP during his brief time in the Show.
Sneed has worked only as a reliever during his two seasons with the Astros, usually appearing in a multi-inning capacity in 2019 before seeing a lot more single-inning duty this year. He started 155 of his 216 career games in the minor leagues, so it’s possible he could get another look as a starter with the Swallows.
There haven’t been any reports of Sneed being designated or released by Houston, so it would seem that some type of deal will have to be worked out (or has been worked out) between the Astros and Swallows. While Sneed is a controllable pitcher who has yet to even lose his rookie status, it could be that he just isn’t in the Astros’ long-term plans, so a move to NPB represents a new opportunity for the right-hander.