Cubs interested in Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa

Having lost out on top Korean starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, it appears the Cubs have set their sights on another star pitcher from the Pacific Rim.  This time the pitcher is a reliever, Kyuji Fujikawa of the Hanshin Tigers.  Fujikawa is a closer and has amassed incredible numbers in the NPB.

The 32 year old is power pitcher who throws in the mid 90s.  He also throws a slider and a forkball.

Fujikawa has averaged nearly 12 Ks per 9 IP in his career while walking a respectable 2.69/9IP.  Last year he was 2-2 with 24 saves, 15 walks, 58 strikeouts, and a 1.32 ERA in 47 2/3 innings.  There is some risk involved, however. as relievers in Asia tend to be used heavily.

It sets up a potentially interesting scenario as it would give the Cubs even more flexibility to deal Carlos Marmol.

Fujikawa is a free agent and there is no posting fee involved.  He has already visited the Cubs and Wrigley field as well as the Diamondbacks. There are other teams interested including the Red Sox, Rangers, Angels, and yes....the Los Angeles Dodgers and their monopoly money.  This is not a case, however, where the the Cubs should overspend.  If they can get Fujikawa at good value, great.  If the Dodgers or another team want to overpay, then the Cubs shouldn't stand in the way.

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  • Fujikawa could be Marmol aid.

  • Haha...yes, he could.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It wouldn't surprise me to see the FO rid the Major League roster of much of Hendry's handiwork.

  • Me neither. Though there are at least two, Castro and Samardzija, that they want to keep long term.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed. Also, perhaps, any Minor Leaguers that are prospects rather than suspect.

  • Only a 2 year contract. Are you surprised that no 40-man roster
    moves have been made yet? Which teams do you think will have
    the most problems getting down to 40. Can this help the Cubs.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Not surprised at all. I think the Cubs will want to wait as long as possible to clear space.

    Teams with good MLB players and deep farm systems always have the toughest time, so I expect a team like Texas to lose a couple of players. KC has a deep system and they may lose decent prospects.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    "I expect a team like Texas to lose a couple of players..."

    are you talking about the Rule V or a deadline to tender contacts before the rule V?

  • In reply to CubFan Paul:

    More Rule 5.

  • Given the other teams who may be interested, I see the Cubs chances as slim. The Rangers, Angels, and Dodgers are built to win now, plus the Dodgers will simply write a bigger check. I can't see a 32 year old free agent from Japan signing with a team that just lost 101 games. Hope I'm wrong...

  • In reply to Larry H:

    That is a problem but there's the one thing the Cubs can do that the others can't: guarantee him the closer role. Well, if they trade Marmol. The Cubs main selling point right now is opportunity.

  • The last thing a 100 loss team needs is an upgrade to its closer. Its like putting a turbocharger on an old beater. Unless the team is convinced that they can move Marmol before the start of the season, what's the point of bidding against a drunken sailor in LA for a 32 year old reliever? Marmol is not going to be around here past the end of July, and all we're buying with this (unproven at the MLB level) guy is more uncertainty that we can unload him for prospects when we need to. Having two closers to unload means you're competing against yourself. We can most likely groom someone else to close by the end of July and keep Marmol around until his price is at its highest.

    I'd rather see the team buy another starter or two than get distracted by this guy.

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    In reply to SFToby:

    I agree....why spend money on an older reliever, when we have so many other needs?

    I don't get it. It only makes sense if we are buying low, like the White Sox did way back when with Tadahito Iguchi...but looks like several big-money teams are in on it.

    He's a guy we should be interested in when we are contenders...but we ain't.

    Another day....let's save our money for that day

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I don't think the Cubs plan to outbid LA on this one. If they want to go crazy again, nobody is going to get in their way.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    It's all about collecting assets at good value. I agree with you guys who are saying that the Cubs biggest need at this point is not a potential closer... but let's say they sign him to a team friendly 2 or 3 year deal and he shows he's capable of closing. I believe a MLB closer with a good contract could bring nice value in return in a potential trade at the deadline. This could be a win win for both the player as well as the Cubs. Fujikawa gets the opportunity to show he can close which could mean more money to him long term and the Cubs could potentially turn a short term asset into a long term asset.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I don't think the Cubs will try to outbid LA on this one. If they want to go crazy, I think the Cubs will let them. They're probably just looking for value here but if they don't get him, they'll pass.

  • Why can't we upgrade at another position in addition to pitcher and then flip that player at the trade deadline?

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    I think if we saw a good player sign for a low contract somewhere else we would all be jumping down TheHoyer's throat for not signing the guy. There's no harm in trying to sign a good player. If he's too expensive to sign, then move on, but they don't know that until they talk to him.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Why do we have to back away from a price if we're looking to trade that piece in the future? Right now we have precious few pieces to trade. I think we should buy a piece to trade.

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    In reply to SFToby:

    It just depends on what price a player is demanding. We shouldn't sign anyone that our FO views as overvalued because if our goal is ultimately to sign and flip them, the higher the salary the less attractive they are to trade. I mostly think the FO knows exactly what they are doing. I disagree with the salary they are paying Dioner Navarro, but I'm sure they could explain it in a way to me that makes sense, it's just that for some reason TheHoyer never calls me at home :). Navarro's contract might just be that there were other teams interested and we had to overpay to get him, we're not the most attractive franchise to play for right now since we're not contending. But I'm still shocked that Navarro didn't get a minor league contract and a ST invite, or even a low base major league contract.

    I think the reason we aren't rumored to be looking at many position players is that we don't want to block the kids. They'll sign or trade for a low priced OF that can be flipped if Brett Jackson finally can seize an everyday MLB job. 3b is a bit of a jam too, with so many options from the minors that could be available as soon as late 2013, so signing any vet to a multi-year deal there (not that there are any real attractive free agent 3b), just doesn't make sense.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    We just saw a high priced Jose Reyes and Mark Buhrle, both with back loaded contracts get flipped with relative ease after only 1 year with a new club. If we're afraid that we'll be blocking a Brett Jackson with a BJ Upton or Michael Bourn, well, that's a little ridiculous, isn't it? I'm not a fan of saving a spot on a roster for someone just because they're next in line. We're supposed to turn a corner in the next couple of years, and I see no reason we can't get some players here that can fit into that timetable if we can get them now. The first wave can be a mixture of free agents and treasures from the dumpster. I'm not talking about getting away from the front office's plan - I'm just suggesting we can hot wire it. It was said that we'd fill in with free agents when the time is right. I see no reason to forecast the needs now and fill in proactively. If Almora doesn't have a cubbie occurrence and breaks a leg or finds out he can't hit a major league curve, then no problem. If he comes up on time, then we trade the centerfielder, no matter who that is.

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    In reply to SFToby:

    I wouldn't say Reyes and Buerhle were flipped with relative ease. The Marlins and Toronto were in far different positions than most other teams. The Marlins decided to dump every high priced veteran while screwing their fans, the city, and the agreement they had made just one year earlier with MLB and MLBPA to increase their payroll after a long run of cashing revenue sharing checks without putting that back into the on field product. Toronto was the rare team that is ready to contend and has a ton of money available. While they aren't the big spenders like NY, Boston, and now L.A., Toronto is a gigantic market. I doubt many other teams would be able to take on $160 million in contracts without moving back other significant contracts.

    If this Japanese closer is looking at $2-3-even $4 million, it's probably worth signing him if we can. If he's looking at $6-8 million, like some teams are handing out to setup men, forget it. It would just be that much harder to deal him for prospects if he's not perceived as a value to other teams. Look at Maholm last year. He didn't have a ton of value because he is an ace, he had value because he's a decent pitcher on a below-market contract. The contracts today have just as much of a role in a player's value as talent, which is sad, but that's the way it is.

    I'll also add that B.J. Upton and Michael Bourn have some red flags for long term deals. Upton doesn't make much contact, strikes out a ton, and had his share of problems in Tampa. Bourn is the exact type of player teams should avoid giving long term free agent contracts to. He's a one dimensional player who's only above average tool is speed. He doesn't have a high OBP, doesn't hit for power, etc. Once his speed starts to decline he's not anymore more than a replacement level player. And the problem there is that Bourn is 30 years old next year, the time when players historically start to lose speed, and he's asking for a 5-6 year contract in the neighborhood of $15 mil per year. That's a horrible signing waiting to happen. We're just getting over the bad contracts Hendry gave out, with another 2 years of Soriano left. It doesn't make any sense to go hand out another big money long term deal to a 30 year old free agent, especially when we're not contending and signing them won't make us a contender.

    I'd rather have B.J. Upton over Bourn. Upton is 2 years younger, has speed and power, and a better arm. But he's likely going to sign another long term, pretty decent money deal. Like 4-5 years, $12 mil per or something like that would be my guess. I could live with that but it's not really a great fit. But I would run far away from Michael Bourn and the contract demands he's making.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Right now I don't expect the Cubs to sign Upton or Bourn. I don't even think they're really heavy in pursuit of either.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    I think this is pretty much what the Cubs are probably thinking.

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    And he has some ridiculous stats in the Japanese League.

  • Great stats in Japan, but he relies on blowing his fastball by everyone too much - which I don't think will play as well in the majors.

    That said, it would be fun to see him at Wrigley trying, if he's not too expensive. We need arms, period.

  • In reply to TokyoCraig:

    Agreed. If it's not too expensive, why not? But no reason to bid big on a relief pitcher.

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    I will also say that talking Hot Stove Baseball is always a blast. The best part is we're all generally wrong (I know I am) but feel we know more than any GM. lol. Well, maybe we do know more than Ed Lynch or Larry Himes :)

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Or Jim Frey.

  • Sometimes fans are right. Front offices ovrrthink and miss the obvious.

  • Let's say that there are two teams that would sign for 6 million, but the Cubs and most others believe he is worth only 4 million (numbers are random, but probably not unrealistic.

    In the above scenario, there is one reason why the Cubs might want to sign him for 7 million, and that is if they think they can trade him for a good prospect in July by eating his entire salary.

    If Vizcaino had been declared a free agent last summer for some reason, what do you think he would have gone for on the open market? I suspect that it would have been well north of 10 million, yet they got him for Maholm. If they could trade him for a couple of Villanuevas, it would be well worth the 7 million dollars.

    It might be one of the last ways to bring in extra young prospects under the new Labor Contract.

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    In reply to DaveP:

    That's true, and if the Cubs are willing to eat a decent amount of money, that is one way to exploit a weakness in the CBA and rebuild faster. I like that. Good idea.

  • I thought the philosophy was to be pursuing guys with a 2 in front of their age. This guy's no doubt a crafty pitcher with some value but he's also probably thrown 2 million pitches in his career. That's how they roll over there. If we are looking for 32 year olds I think I'd be a little more comfortable with Ryan Madson. If the idea is to trade Marmol and build value with another guy I don't see how it would make sense to sign Fujikawa with the promise of closing. I'd rather see a little competition for that value. Madson, Matt Capps maybe. Two sleepers that I really like are Mark Lowe and Koji Uehara.
    Then again there's always a case to be made for bringing in some new blood, something exciting and trying to catch lightning in a bottle. If all his offers were relatively similar I can't see the Cubs being Fujikawas's first choice. Never know though.
    What I really wish is for Big Raffy Dolis to start featuring that slider a little bit, get tough, and throw some goddamn strikes. He pitched scared last season and that was really disappointing. Sinker/slider guys that throw 97 don't grow on trees. Get tough Rafael!! One time.

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    In reply to Ben20:

    I think of the teams rumored to be interested in Fujikawa, the Cubs and Angels could offer him the closer role or competition for it. I think the Angels are more attractive, obviously, because they will contend and are much closer to Japan for travel if he is married and has a family.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    He's not crafty. He's a power pitcher. Cubs will look through all avenues to find some value. If they can get him at a reasonable deal, not only will they be able to trade Marmol easier, but they could also flip Fujikawa eventually. You mention other guys that can possibly fill that role, but no harm in looking at a guy who's had great success in a league that's 2nd only to MLB. None of these guys are guarantees.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Right on! Wouldn't it be so nice to have a 'guarantee' or two back there!? I really hope we hit on the bullpen roulette, whoever it is. So "easy" to contend with a lock-down bullpen...

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