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Yusei Kikuchi signs three-year deal with Blue Jays

The Japanese lefty will slot into the five spot of Toronto’s starting rotation.

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi (18) looks on against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Blue Jays have solidified their starting rotation by signing free agent Yusei Kikuchi to a three-year, $36-million contract, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

The southpaw was an All Star in 2021 after enjoying a very good first half of the season. He saw a bump in velocity the past two seasons, touching 97-98 mph. He can get hit around at times but he is a very solid back-of-the-rotation piece.

Kikuchi, who will turn 31 in June, is a Scott Boras client who declined a player option worth $13 million despite struggling down the stretch with the Seattle Mariners in 2021. The team also had an option to lock him up for $66 million through 2025.

His salary is front-loaded: Kikuchi will get $16 million this season and $10 million in each of the following two seasons, according to Bob Nightengale.

The Blue Jays’ presumptive rotation entering the season will feature righties Kevin Gausman, José Berríos, Alek Manoah, and lefties Hyun Jin Ryu and Yusei Kikuchi. This appears to be the strongest opening day starting rotation Toronto has had for a long time, and it is perhaps the strongest in the American League. They also have strong depth in the position, with Ross Stripling, Nate Pearson, Thomas Hatch penciled in behind the starting five with Bowden Francis and Zach Logue a step back.