The Toronto Blue Jays search for a closer has gone international, with the signing of the Brazilian-Italian closer Tiago da Silva, who is known affectionately as “Shogun” by his fans. Some may recognize his name from Italy’s 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classic teams.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 30, 2015
Tiago da Silva pitched for six years in the Italian Professional League, primarily as a starter. The level of competition in Italy certainly isn’t great, but regardless, da Silva put up a 41-12 record with a 2.00 career ERA, 0.925 WHIP and an encouraging K:BB ratio. Following his success in Italy, da Silva moved to the Mexican League for the 2014 season, which is often compared to AA baseball in terms of strength of competition.
With the Delfines de Ciudad del Carmen club, da Silva posted 29 saves on the season and dominated competition. His ERA held strong at 2.07 with a 0.902 WHIP, but most impressive was his 11.1 K/9. He is not a pitcher that relies on throwing the ball past hitters, and instead relies on an arsenal of off speed pitches to compliment his high-80’s fastball. While this video below is several years old and won’t receive much Academy Award consideration, it gives a very general outline of the 5’9 da Silva and his throwing motion, which is quite unique.
The Toronto Blue Jays must have had their eyes on the Venezuelan League through the winter, where da Silva has continued his success. He’s thrown 30.0 innings, allowing just three walks while striking out 37.
So where does da Silva fit in to the Blue Jays plans? This is one of Alex Anthopoulos’ more obscure signings in recent memory, so digging up scouting reports and film to project da Silva’s success isn’t easy. There does seem to be some serious buzz about his change up, which sounds like a bit of a molasses ball, so that will be something to keep an eye on through spring training. It has yet to be announced if da Silva received an invite, but I certainly assume he has.
While I’m not expecting much to come from this move until we see more of him, keep in mind that the MLB is full of stranger stories. Just on this roster, Steve Delabar was a school teacher, Edwin Encarnacion was a throw-in and Jose Bautista flirted with a negative WAR for the first half of his career. If da Silva can stick with the team and start the year off on the right foot, perhaps at AAA Buffalo, he could be an extremely interesting, albeit unpredictable, pitcher to keep an eye on.