In what would be a surprise move, the Chicago Cubs have reportedly signed coveted Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa.
Fujikawa deal with #Cubs is two years with a vesting option for a third. He likely will be the team's closer.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 1, 2012
If Fujikawa option does not vest, #Cubs hold $5.5M club option with $500K buyout. A total of $9.5M guaranteed.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 1, 2012
Rosenthal is as respected and well-connected as any baseball reporter out there, so there is every reason to believe this information, even if, as he points out in his tweet, it comes as a surprise.
Fujikawa has been most closely linked to the Angels all offseason. However, if these reports are true, he must have preferred the money and the opportunity in Chicago better.
He will almost definitely be the closer with Chicago, as Fujikawa should have little problem wrestling away the Cubs' closer position from Carlos Marmol.
Marmol had 20 saves last season in 23 opportunities with an ERA of 3.42. Not bad numbers, but the Cubs are clearly ready to move on. The Cubs attempted to trade him earlier in this offseason, but the trade he vetoed the deal.
Fujikawa, 32, has recorded 220 saves with a 1.77 career ERA and 914 strikeouts to just 207 walks while pitching in Japan. He was also a big presence on Japan's World Baseball Classic teams.
He is not slipping with age either. Last season, he recorded 24 saves with a 1.32 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 58 strikeouts for the Hanshin Tigers in Nippon Professional Baseball.
This move will free the Cubs up to continue to unabashedly shop Marmol, and it should also make his veto trigger finger a little less itchy.