Tampa Bay Rays: The International Closer That Never Was

Tampa Bay Devil Rays Photo Day
Tampa Bay Devil Rays Photo Day / Nick Laham/GettyImages

Staying on the idea of international signings, let us take a look back at one international signing that never got a shot in the big leagues. Shinji Mori was a 6'2 right handed pitcher out of Japan pitching for the Seibu Lions of the Nippon Professional Baseball league. Mori was primarily a closer but started a total of 27 out of his 431 games he played over 9 years in Japan.

Over 9 years, Mori finished his career with a 44-44 record, 3.39 ERA and 50 saves across 653.0 innings. Along with these stats, Mori posted a modest 0.8 HR/9, 1.32 WHIP and 3.8 BB/9. While these numbers are nothing out of the ordinary, Mori's 10.4 K/9 was something that interested the Rays (Devil Rays at the time) in 2006.

How Shinji Mori went from international closer to potential major leaguer for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays

After the 2005 season, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays acquired Shinji Mori through the posting system similar to how Shohei Ohtani was acquired. The Devil Rays won the rights to Mori for $1 million and offered him a 2 year/ $1.3 million contract bringing their total investment to $2.3 million. Right on par for the contracts that the Rays usually give out for a low risk high reward player. Mori was brought in to compete for a closer role in 2006 which ultimately ended up being worked through a committee of pitchers.

Before the season however, Mori underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum and was forced to miss the entire season. After returning from surgery, Mori was ultimately cut from the Devil Rays before ever throwing a pitch in the big leagues. Mori returned to Japan in 2009 as a player-coach for the Ishikawa Million Stars before strictly coaching from 2010-2014.

While Shinji Mori might not have worked out for the Rays, there have been a few stars that have come from the posting system. Some of these players include Shoehei Ohtani, Ichiro Suzuki, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish, Hyun-Jin Ryu and future MLB hopeful Seiya Suzuki. Look for the Rays to try their hand at signing another international star in the future.