According to a report from Cubs.com, citing Sports Hochi as the source, the Cubs are close to signing Ken Takahashi to a one-year contract. The 40-year old southpaw was 8-5 last season for the Hiroshima Carp with a 3.50 ERA.
The Cubs have been looking for another Japanese player to help Kosuke Fukudome with the transition and tried unsuccessfully last year when they signed Shingo Takatsu to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.
Updated 2:49pm C.T. - Cubs' Officials Deny Being Close on Deal for Takahashi
If the Cubs signed Ken Takahashi he would give Lou Piniella another southpaw in the pen along with Neal Cotts and in turn could allow Sean Marshall to move into the rotation.
The Cubs are rumored to be looking for another starting pitcher to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation. Takahashi could be used as a middle reliever or in spot starts.
The report on NPB Tracker stated it would be a Major League deal but "this is very early speculation."
Update - According to a report on Monday afternoon from Cubs.com, Cubs' officials denied the report that they were close to a deal with Ken Takahashi. The report did not deny interest, just being close to a deal with the southpaw reliever.