Nearly a month ago, the Chicago Cubs were believed to be in the final stages of sending closer Carlos Marmol to the Los Angeles Angels for starting pitcher Dan Haren. Though, the deal never materialized as the Cubs nixed the deal after reviewing Haren’s medical records. In the time between the failed trade with the Angels and the start of the Winter Meetings in Nashville this week, the Cubs have signed two starting pitchers in Scott Baker and Scott Feldman.
After signing two free agent starting pitchers, the Cubs have turned their attention to improving their bullpen. The Cubs made significant progress at improving their bullpen on Saturday. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports was first to report Saturday afternoon that the Cubs reached an agreement with Kyuji Fujikawa. On Friday, it was believed that Fujikawa was going to sign with the Angels though as the Cubs have learned multiple times in this past year no deal is final until there is an official announcement.
Fujikawa is a 32 year old Japanese closer who has spent the past six seasons with the Hanshin Tigers of Japan. In those six seasons, Fujikawa has posted an ERA of 1.36 to go along with a WHIP of 0.86 in addition to a K/9 of 12.4 and a BB/9 of 2.3 in a little over 369 career innings. In those six seasons, Fujikawa has collected a total of 202 saves.
Fujikawa’s contract with the Cubs is for 2 years and is worth $9.5 million. The contract includes a vesting option for the 2015 season based on games finished that could be worth anywhere from $5.5 million to $6 million. If the option does not vest, the Cubs would then have the option to bring back Fujikawa for the 2015 season for a cost of $5.5 million with a $500K buyout. Of course, like with any free agent signing, there will be speculation that the Cubs will look to trade Fujikawa. While that is certainly possible, that suggestion does not seem too realistic. Fujikawa will not be traded during the 2013 season, and if the Cubs are ready to contend, it does not seem likely that he will be traded in 2014 either. Fujikawa features a mid-90s fastball and should be an effective closer with the Cubs.
Make no mistake about it, Fujikawa will be the Cubs’ closer in 2013. Meaning that Carlos Marmol almost certainly will be traded before the Cubs’ enter Spring Training in 2013. The Angels could renew their interest in Marmol, and there are several other teams that are in the market for a closer this winter.