We have talked before about how much of a slippery road it is for Japanese pitchers, but Kyuji Fujikawa, 32, presents an interesting case for any team. Most notably the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are among at least 10 teams who have made offers for him. While they are not linked to him, let’s not count out the New York Yankees. As we saw in 2012, our bullpen is by no means perfect and can be susceptible to major injuries. Fujikawa would present not only a veteran closer arm from the Japanese leagues, but also someone who was used to setting up games and having a middle relief role.
Would the addition of Fujikawa help make this bullpen perfect? No. The Baltimore Orioles, whose bullpen held together an ERA of 3.00 in 2012 clearly had the right stuff but somewhere along the lines the Yankees’ pen fell off. At one point, the Yankees’ bullpen looked pretty invincible, but then guys started to hit brick walls.
What Fujikawa can present to the Yankees is versatility. As I mention pretty much all the time, versatility is a key role, especially in our bullpen. Since the Yankees re-signed Hiroki Kuroda earlier this week, then that means that bullpen guys like David Phelps and possibly even Adam Warren might not have to worry about starting and could focus more on relief if needed. Fujikawa obviously wouldn’t start, but he’d be a valuable asset as additional pitching depth which aids both the starting rotation and bullpen.
One factor that could go against the Yanks ability to sign Fujikawa is if he’d be content with a setup or middle-relief role. Fujikawa has established himself in Japan as one of its premiere closers, racking up 218 saves in six years.
Mariano Rivera has made a full pledge to return in 2013, but beyond that is where the Yankees hit an uncertain area. David Robertson, the current setup man would more than likely be considered for the role, but if the Yanks can snag Fujikawa, then perhaps the phenom from Japan will see the ninth inning.
Fujikawa has an impressive 1.36 ERA in the past six seasons with a remarkable 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. He also has a ridiculously low WHIP of 0.855 during that span.
The Yankees may stay away from Fujikawa because of the boat-load of teams interested in him which is driving up his price. However, in my opinion, he looks like he could be a great catch for future years to come, so why not make a stab at signing him?