The Chicago Cubs’ off-season has taken an interesting tone up to this point. Whether it was the Cubs interest in trading closer Carlos Marmol to the Los Angeles Angels, the Cubs signing of veteran players looking for a bounce back in catcher Dioner Navarro and starting pitcher Scott Baker, or the Cubs’ interest in Korean pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu; the Cubs off-season or at least the rumors that are being connected to the Cubs may not be what some fans were expecting.
Saturday provided yet another surprising rumor for the Cubs’ off-season. According to Gary Fraley of the Dallas Morning News, the Cubs hosted Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa at Wrigley Field this past week. Fujikawa is believed to be one of the top relievers in Nippon Pro Baseball. Playing in the Japan Central league last season, Fujikawa posted an ERA of 1.32 to go along with 24 saves in a little over 47 innings pitched. Little is known about Fujikawa, but Fraley’s report suggests that the pitcher is capable of throwing a mid-90s fastball.
The Cubs’ interest in Fujikawa is a bit perplexing. While Fujikawa certainly has the potential to be a dominant reliever in Major League Baseball, the reliever is already 32 years of age. Fujikawa’s age does not appear to fit with the long-term direction of the Cubs. The Cubs are not expecting to be in contention until 2014 at the earliest, though, 2015 is the more realistic goal. Meaning that Fujikawa would be on the wrong side of 30 as the Cubs look to contend. The argument can be made with Fujikawa like it has already been made with Baker, and that is that the Cubs will look to trade him for prospects by the July 31 trade deadline. But unlike Baker, Fujikawa is not looking for a team that will give him a chance to re-establish himself in the Major Leagues. Fujikawa is looking to make the transition from Japan to Major League Baseball and likely will be looking for security in any contract that he signs with a Major League Baseball team. Meaning that the Cubs practice of turning short term assets into long term assets likely will not work on Fujikawa.
Where the Cubs may be interested in Fujikawa is as a possible closer. The fact remains that the Cubs, at least in my opinion, will trade Marmol at some point this off-season. While it is possible, I don’t see how Marmol can return to the Cubs in Spring Training knowing that the team tried but failed to trade him during the 0ff-season. If the Cubs are able to trade Marmol, then the team will be in need of a closer for the 2013 season. That would be where Fujikawa would seemingly fit into the Cubs’ plans, at least for the 2013 season.