This winter, Kyuji Fujikawa is the next in an increasingly long list of Japanese-trained pitchers to take their talents to Major League Baseball, and with free agency underway, he'll be entertaining offers from multiple MLB teams in the coming weeks.
As one of the most highly-regarded closers on the market, the right-hander will have no shortage of suitors, especially after his impressive 2012 season with the Hanshin Tigers, in which he notched 41 saves in 56 games.
What makes him even more attractive than past Japanese MLB pitchers is that because of Fujikawa's 10-year career in Japan, teams interested in the closer need not negotiate with the pitcher's team in order to secure his services.
Looking ahead, here are some of the potential landing spots for the 32-year-old four-time NPB All-Star.
Los Angeles Angels
Thus far, the Angels have been one of the most aggressive teams in pursuit of Fujikawa, and according to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, they're not keeping it a secret.
Improving the bullpen is also a priority, and that pursuit could take the Angels to Japan. Dipoto confirmed he's interested in free-agent closer Kyuji Fujikawa.
Fujikawa, 32, was 3-3 with a 1.24 earned-run average and 41 saves for the Hanshin Tigers last season and would like to play on the West Coast. The right-hander mixes a 93-mph fastball with a split-finger fastball and slider.
"There's an attraction there for the player and for us," Dipoto said. "We've seen him against major league hitters. There's no question about his ability. He's a talented guy."
The Angels would benefit from adding an experienced closer like Fujikawa to the mix, and as DiGiovanna points out, the pitcher's preference is reportedly to go to a team on the West coast.
It's obvious that the Angels are very interested in signing Fujikawa, but whether they'll outbid others competing for his services remains to be seen.
Los Angeles Dodgers
As usual, the Angels and Dodgers will be competing for a highly-regarded free agent, as the Angels' crosstown rivals appear to be in contention to land the coveted closer.
In late October, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times broke the news on the Dodgers' interest in Fujikawa.
The Dodgers are interested in Japanese free-agent reliever Kyuji Fujikawa, according to people familiar with their thinking.
A right-hander armed with a mid-90s fastball, Fujikawa has been considered the Japanese league's top closer in recent years. The 32-year-old has posted a 1.26 ERA over his last eight seasons with the Hanshin Tigers.
The Dodgers may not be as openly keen on bringing in the two-time World Baseball Classic participant as the Angels, but that doesn't mean they won't offer him a more lucrative contract.
Boston Red Sox
As the Red Sox try to rebuild after last season's overwhelmingly disappointing performance, it seems that they too are in the running to land the veteran closer.
According to Ricky Doyle of NESN.com, the Red Sox are looking into the possibility of signing Fujikawa, but are aware that there are at least a handful of teams that are in the mix as well.
The Dallas Morning News' Gerry Fraley recently said that the Texas Rangers are actively scouting Fujikawa, and are very interested in discussing a deal with the 32-year-old reliever.
The Texas Rangers are among several teams that have scouted right-handed reliever Kyuji Fujikawa, who is about to receive free agency from Nippon Pro Baseball. Fujikawa, 32, was 2-2 with 24 saves and a 1.32 ERA in 47 2/3 innings this season with Hanshin of the Japan Central League. His top pitches are the fastball and the split-finger fastball
It's unclear as to how interested the Rangers are in Fujikawa, but at least by the sound of things, they'll be a front-runner in the bidding for the former Team Japan pitcher.
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