Right-hander Rafael Dolis, 32, has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, according to a twitter report by Hanshin Tigers English News, who first reported the story early Sunday morning in Japan.
You can find Dolis’ NPB player page in English HERE.
Dolis saved 30-plus games in both 2018 and 2019, but was pulled from the closer’s role on July 23, for reasons that are not obvious in his results. The club turned to ageless right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa, who converted every save opportunity that came his way the rest of the year.
You can read Kyodo News’ interview with Fujikawa HERE.
Since he arrived in 2016, Dolis has relied primarily on a fastball, a two-seamer and a split, which has been his most effective pitch and said he perfected with the help of Tigers coaches.
Two-seamers are still considered a rarity in Japan. Among pitchers last season who threw 200 or more of them, Dolis’ was ranked fourth in NPB by data analysis site Delta Graphs. His splitter ranked fifth, which may not sound as impressive until one realizes how many extremely good splitters are thrown here.
The Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League announced Saturday that former Indians Padres and Rangers reliever Jon Edwards has been acquired on a one-year contract estimated at $800,000 according to multiple media sources.
Edwards, who will turn 32 in January, is expected to take over the setup role vacated by Pierce Johnson, whose curve was very effective in 2019, his lone NPB season. According to Fangraphs Edward’s most effective pitch is his slider, so that will be a slight change. With former closer Rafael Dolis now out of the picture for 2020 as well, the club is probably seeing Edwards setting up for the ageless Kyuji Fujikawa next season.
Giants counting (on) Crow
Former outfielder Warren Cromartie will have a somewhat expanded role next season as a team advisor with the CL’s Yomiuri Giants, Nikkan Sports reported. Cromartie, a fan favorite in his seven seasons with the Giants from 1984, was a fixture at the batting cage prior to home games this year at Tokyo Dome.
According to the story, Cromartie (66), who I have ranked as the 126th most valuable player in NPB history despite his limited time here, will join the team on the road and in spring training, his schedule permitting.
The club hopes that Cromartie, who joined Yomiuri from the Montreal Expos, will be able to tutor newcomer Gerardo Parra, who arrives from the Nationals, in the spring.
Back in the day, Crow used to lead the Giants fans in cheers when the teams changed sides after Yomiuri put runs on the board. The scoring team’s fans will chant the players’ names who drove in runs in the inning, and typically the players will doff their caps, wave or bow. But Cromartie joined the fans and they cheered each other. So if all goes well, Crow’s new routine might involve the Baby Shark
And then there’s the other “news”
Here’s a sample of other headlines on Dec, 21, 2019, an offseason Saturday in Japan from online stories in the Nikkan Sports.
The Toronto Blue Jays hit pay dirt on with what appears to be a cost-effective two-year contract for right-hander Shun Yamaguchi. The deal, as reported by Sankei Sports Wednesday morning in Japan, will be for $6 million.
Yamaguchi, who joined the Yomiuri Giants of Japan’s Central League three years ago as a free agent from the DeNA BayStars, is the first player ever posted by the Giants, Japan’s oldest pro team.
My profile of Yamaguchi is HERE. He is coming off a career year in 2019 when he tied for the Central League in wins with 15 as the Giants won their first pennant since 2013.
Although pundits are saying Yamaguchi could be effective as a reliever, should know that the reason he became a starter was that he developed a case of the yips as a reliever and became ineffective. The switch back to starter allowed him to develop his other pitches — a development that was accelerated during his time with the Giants.
Part of that metamorphosis was also likely due to his needing a new challenge, something pitching in the majors will provide in any context.
According to the SanSPo story, Yamaguchi will fly directly to Canada from Hawaii, where he had been with the rest of the Giants on their customary “victory vacation.”
Yamaguchi opens posting door for Sugano
The Giants had been staunchly opposed to using the posting system since the days of powerful former owner Tsuneo Watanabe but included a provision to post Yamaguchi as part of the three-year contract that saw him move from Yokohama to Tokyo. Since then, mixed signals have been coming from Yomiuri.
The same week the team’s owner passed off Yamaguchi’s posting as a one-time thing, Team president Tsukasa Imamura admitted the team had accepted the pitcher’s desire to be posted when he joined them as a free agent, saying, “no time was fixed for posting but that it was agreed to” according to a Daily Sports story.
Imamura added that it would now be incumbent on the team to evaluate other players’ wishes to be posted and named two-time Sawamura Award-winner Tomoyuki Sugano as a player who might fit that bill, mentioning that the right-hander had already sacrificed a year of his pro career in order to join the Giants as an amateur.
Rafael Dolis, the closer for the CL’s Hanshin Tigers until Kyuji Fujikawa‘s ninth-inning resurrection this past summer, is apparently moving on in search of a major league contract according to this story in the Daily Sports, which said the Tigers gave up on contract talks on Tuesday.
After saving 88 games over the previous 2-1/2 seasons, Dolis lost two games in June and was removed from the ninth-inning firing line and replaced by the remarkable Kyuji Fujikawa in July.
Except for a few hiccups, the 31-year-old Dolis was essentially as effective in 2019 as he had been in his three previous seasons.
In related news, the Daily Sports also reported with 31-year-old right-hander Jon Edwards. In 49 major league games as a reliever with the Rangers, Padres and Indians, Edwards is 2-0 with a 3.67 ERA over 41-2/3 innings.
He has a 3.08 ERA over 131-1/3 career Triple-A innings with 30 saves and an 11-4 record. His 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings this year with Columbus was the worst figure of his Triple-A career. Using the lively major league ball introduced this season in Triple-A, Edwards allowed seven of his 10 career home runs over 49 innings.
The Hanshin Tigers have set a Dec. 12 deadline — the final day of the baseball winter meetings in San Diego to decide on whether to try and bring back reliever Pierce Johnson or pursue other options, the Hochi Shimbun reported Sunday.
The 28-year-old right-hander was one of the Central League’s premier middle relievers in his 2019 debut Japan season.
Tigers officials are now in the U.S. to try and iron out agreements with Johnson and fellow right-hander Rafael Dolis.