Left-hander Anthony Kay is signing with the Yokohama BayStars of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, reports Robert Murray of FanSided (X link). It’ll be the first overseas stint for the CAA client.
Kay, 29 in March, is a former first-round pick of the Mets. Traded to the Blue Jays as a prospect in the Marcus Stroman deal, he debuted with Toronto in 2019. That kicked off a stretch of five seasons with some amount of MLB action. His largest workload came in 2021, when he logged 33 2/3 innings of 5.61 ERA ball.
The UCONN product remained with the Jays through the 2022 season. He bounced around the league last year, going to three different teams on waivers. Kay opened the season with the Cubs and briefly landed with the Mets at year’s end. During the postseason, the A’s claimed him. Oakland cut him loose a couple weeks later without any game action, sending him to the open market.
Kay has yet to find much MLB success. He owns a 5.59 ERA through 85 1/3 innings, working mostly in a long relief capacity. Middling control has been the primary culprit. Kay has walked upwards of 12% of batters faced in his MLB career. He handed out free passes at a 13.6% clip during his big league work last season and walked a nearly identical 13.7% of opponents over 37 1/3 innings in Triple-A.
Strike-throwing issues notwithstanding, Kay represents an intriguing flier for an NPB team. His fastball has averaged just under 95 MPH during his time in the majors. He has a reasonable 22.4% strikeout percentage in his big league career and fanned more than 31% of opposing hitters in Triple-A a year ago.
That ability to miss bats would’ve enabled Kay to find a minor league contract if he wanted to remain in affiliated ball. The opportunity in Japan allows him to lock in a salary that is surely above what he’d have made in Triple-A. He’ll take that avenue instead. If he pitches well in NPB, he could reemerge as a target for major league teams a year or two from now.