The Yokohama BayStars have signed right-hander J.B. Wendelken, the New York Post’s Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link). The contract is a one-year deal with an option for 2024, and Wendelken can earn up to $3.05MM, including incentives.
Wendleken elected free agency after the season, ending a stint with the Diamondbacks that began in August 2021 when Arizona claimed him off waivers from the A’s. The Diamondbacks agreed to an arbitration-avoiding one-year, $835K deal with Wendelken last winter, but he posted only a 5.29 ERA over 29 innings in 2022. Arizona designated the righty for assignment in July and then outrighted him off the 40-man roster, with Wendelken then spending the remainder of the season at Triple-A Reno.
Beginning his career in Oakland, Wendelken had a solid 2.30 ERA over 74 1/3 relief innings from 2018-20, though his 3.74 SIERA was perhaps more reflective of his overall work. Wendelken benefited from a very low .218 BABIP in those three seasons, but his fortune changed with a .310 BABIP in 2021 and a dropoff in his strikeout rate. The right-hander has only a 19% strikeout rate and a unimpressive 11.4% walk rate over 72 2/3 innings since the start of the 2021 season, as well as a 4.71 ERA.
With this recent performance, Wendelken might have been hard-pressed to find anything beyond than a minor league deal with an MLB team this winter, so he has instead opted for some guaranteed money and a fresh start in Japan. Wendelken’s Triple-A numbers are worth noting, as he had a strong 2.63 ERA, 35.1% strikeout rate, and 9.6% walk rate over the small sample size of 24 innings with Reno. This provides some hope that Wendelken can perhaps get on track with the BayStars, and either continue in NPB or perhaps eventually explore a return to North American baseball.