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Reports earlier in the week had Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa down to the Cubs and Angels, with the Angels as the frontrunner, but …

According to multiple reports, it is the Cubs who will be signing the 32-year-old reliever to a two-year deal with a variety of options tacked on to the end. According to Ken Rosenthal, the contract breaks down like this:

  • Fujikawa gets a $1 million signing bonus, and then salaries of $4 million in 2013 and 2014.
  • From there, he has a vesting option in 2015 which kicks in if he finishes a certain number of games. That option could be worth $5.5 million or $6 million, depending on the number of games finished.
  • If that option doesn’t vest, the Cubs get a club option for 2015 at $5.5 million with a $500K buyout.
  • Thus, it’s a total guarantee of $9.5 million for the two years, which could escalate to as much as $15 million over three years.

Jon Heyman says the total guarantee is $9.2 million, not $9.5 million, for whatever that’s worth. We’ll see the final details shake out over the next day or so.

His addition is a nice one for a¬†beleaguered¬†pen, but you’ve got to figure that it also signals that closer Carlos Marmol is on his way out. The Cubs have already tried – unsuccessfully – to trade him once this offseason, and they’ll undoubtedly keep trying. If the Cubs move Marmol, who is under contract for 2013 for $9.8 million, Fujikawa is obviously the favorite to take over as closer.

Heck, even if Marmol stays, there’s no guarantee that he might not move into a setup role, depending on Fujikawa’s effectiveness.

As I’ve said before, signing Fujikawa, for the Cubs, is not necessarily about signing a 32-year-old closer to a two-year deal because the Cubs expect to win in the next two years. It could simply be about trying to secure an undervalued asset on a favorable contract. Then, if he performs well, he could be dealt at some point in the future, assuming the Cubs aren’t competitive.

UPDATE: I should add, given how some of these things have turned out in the last year, that the Cubs have not confirmed the signing yet. Multiple reporters have, but that’s not a guarantee. That said, this seems pretty buttoned up, given the level of detail on the signing.

  • Dan

    Goodbye Marmol!

  • http://www.justinjabs.com/blog/ justinjabs

    I’ll call this an “interesting” move. Also interested in seeing everyone’s analysis.

  • Jackson Scofield

    Technically a prospect, and NPB newcomers are generally placed in prospect lists regardless of age, but he is also a little bit older than your typical NPB import, though Fukudome was ranked highly and made a BA’s Top 100 overall when we brought him over at age 30, just 2 years apart. Going to be a difficult decision in my list.

  • cubsin

    I sure hope Jed and Theo don’t feel obligated to trade Marmol just because they’ve signed Fujikawa. If they can’t get fair value for him this Winter or during Spring Training, they should keep him around at least until the trade deadline.

  • The Dude

    Word. Hope he has a successful transition to MLB.

  • Elliott

    From what a read, he relies on his fastball (I hear it is a pretty good one), and also throws a curve and a forkball

    • Mike

      Keith Law calls it “solid-average” fastball and his secondary offering is a “good splitter that’s occasionally plus.”

  • JulioZuleta

    I’m glad I saved that quasi-racist headband that they sold outside of Wrigley during Fukudom-ania.

  • http://bleachernation.com someday…2015?

    Not suprised at all.

    • http://bleachernation.com someday…2015?

      …I am suprised by the amount of years. Im not sure how 2 years makes sense but im in no position to critique moves by Thed.

      • MichiganGoat

        Ah two years with a decent option for year three is decent for a closer. They typically have a short shelf life and this increases his value if he looks good and becomes tradable over the next two years.

        • http://bleachernation.com someday…2015?

          Very true goat. I definitely like the idea of getting 1 or 2 years out of an exiting foreign pitcher and then flipping him for a nice prospect or two. Win-win for us.

          • MichiganGoat

            I’m just surprised and at the same time concerned we got him for 2-3 years for only 5M a year. I expected someone would give him a larger contract.

            • http://bleachernation.com someday…2015?

              Yeah, I think we all expected him to sign for more money, and years so it does raise the question, what did other teams see or not see in Fujikawa that made them not want to make a significant offer?

  • ChicagoMike702

    Their pursuit of Kyuji didn’t make sense to me at firstbut I also expected him to command more $. Seems like a good signing of he’s even an average MLB closer.

    • ChicagoMike702

      If* he’s

  • MichiganGoat

    This seems like a great deal lets hope he is successful because playoff teams will be quite interested in a good closer.

  • Frankie N

    Wheres Santo when you need him?

  • http://www.hairofthedogs.me Louise Ducote

    As the mama of a young (10) pitcher, I feel sorry for Marmol. But as a Cubs fan, I don’t ever want to see his unreliable self in a Cubs jersey again. Enjoying your tweets and articles in the dreariness of offseason.

    • Internet Random

      Marmol has made millions and should be set for life… at the ripe old age of 30. He’ll get over it, whatever his fate turns out to be… which could be a trade to a contender.

      • http://www.hairofthedogs.me Louise Ducote

        I know, it’s just a maternal thing. He can wipe away his tears with his checkbook, right?

        • Internet Random

          Exactly.

        • cubchymyst

          See no reason he can’t use a check as a tissue

  • Spencer

    Good signing. I like it. The second bullet on his contract breakdown is a bit confusing to me, though. What does “close out” a game mean? Is that vesting option based on saves? “Games finished” sounds more like appearances to me. The language is just a little ambiguous.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      You can’t make incentives based on statistics like saves or homers or hits. It can only be on things like games played or “finished,” which, in his case, would mean he was the last pitcher in the game (I believe). It’s a proxy for saves, since you can’t use saves.

    • ChicagoMike702

      Games finished, according to Rosenthal’s twitter.

    • JulioZuleta

      Dammit Spencer, I was reading the commenst to get a break from outlining contracts…

      • Spencer

        Barf

      • Internet Random

        Wait till evidence.

        • Spencer

          Evidence was awesome! Loved that class.

          • Internet Random

            Barf.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              Depends on your professor, I think.

              • Internet Random

                Probably. I thoroughly enjoyed some classes I thought I was going to hate (secured transactions, estate & tax, corporations) mostly because of the professors.

                • Internet Random

                  estate & gift tax

  • ryno23

    up until now all the moves made sense,32 year old reliever huh?

    • Jimmy james

      I guess I don’t see why this isn’t viewed as the norm from the front office….good value and if his stuff translates to MLB then they will have a good tradable piece during the next 1.5 years if they aren’t making a run at a wildcard….I think if Theo and Jed had their way they would give a lot of players two year deals or at least one year w team option

      • Smitty

        I think any logical GM would feel the same way about pitchers getting 2-3 years with a club option or vesting option. Unfortunately there are the likes of Scott Boras out there running up the prices/years and other GMs who are just looking to make a splash. Thus the 9.8 mil Marmol is getting this year.

        • Mike

          For 9.5M and an option, you get someone who is likely to be the 20th(ish) best closer in baseball, which allows you to deal your overpriced current closer. Minimize the salary in the short term, when we’re already going to suck, and minimize the sucking by sending out someone who is at least a respectable option (as opposed to trying someone like Dolis).

          • Finner

            Spot on Mike!

  • MightyBear

    Im curious to see what the K man thinks of this move. Theo spending money!

    • Myles

      too bad firetheoepstein is already finished.

      • MichiganGoat

        Already? That was quick, of course my blog didn’t last very long either

    • Internet Random

      Cosmo?

  • Jim Crane

    It is a smart move by Kyuji. By playing for the Cubs, he should not have to work too hard to make his money. If he just comes in, in save situations, he may only need to work once a week or so. Here is hoping that he can throw strikes consistently!

  • PiattCountyGuy

    The first two thoughts that come to mind are:

    (1) OK, this gives Jed and Theo another asset to do something with

    (2) Wow, Harry would have really butchered this guy’s name!

  • Justin

    Good signing. They need someone new, so it was either this signing or go after Wilson how has elbow problems and is going to command more money. Marmol needs to go and we need to get whoever we can out of him. Go get Bourn now. Also I would take Reynolds on a small contract as well for this year. Yea he strikes out more then Jackson does per at bat, but he can bomb some too.

  • Zogie

    Completely off topic, but on twitter Soriano’s name came up with the Phils as a possible suiter. Would the cubs just look for young pitching in the deal or would they take a swing at Domonic Brown to fill in for Sori? Suggestions?

    • MichiganGoat

      Not sure why the Phils would want to add another old player, but I guess when you have their SP you are always in contention.

      • Zogie

        Right now the Phils have no big talent in the outfield. RF Domonic Brown, CF John Mayberry, and LF Darin Ruf currently fill out their outfield. Mayberry is not a true CF, Ruf is unproven, and Brown has not been given a great opportunity to play everyday. Brown has talent, but it still has not shown up. Main point, Phils need a bat in the corner outfield and a legit CF.

  • eaustin92

    I like this move alot. To me age with a closer really isnt a biggie. Hes coming in for one inning. Maybe going 2-3 nights in a row. Hes 32 which really isnt that old either. I think the cubs made a good deal here.

  • cubsin

    The Phils have a very short time horizon to get back to the postseason and a lot of competition from the Braves and Nationals within their own division. They’re an old, big-budget team with a less-than-stellar group of prospects and not a lot of money left to replace their aging stars.

  • Fastball

    I say keep Marmol we need all the real bullpen help we can get. What we need to do is dfa Campana, Rusin, Raley and Clevenger opening up some additional roster spots so we can continue to add players. I would try to put those 4 in a trade or parts of trades for prospects that do not go on the 40 man roster. We need to stop putting these scrubs on the 40 man and get better talent. Not being a troll. Just don’t think these 4 should be on the 40 man and that we can do better. If we can trade those 4 off the roster and only have to take 2 players back in trade that need to be on the roster that’s a big advantage for us. I just have no idea who would want any of those 4 in a trade.

    • eaustin92

      I agree with you…I hate to give up on campana just because of his speed. If he could just hit we would have a good leadoff hitter and hes pretty good in the outfield as well. As for the other three I could care less. Personally I see Marmol being moved though.

      • Cub2014

        I agree about campana he has hit at .260 last year and .265 this year has hit .300 in minors. If the guy could be a consistent bunter they would have something

        They have 2 openings on 40 man roster: they need 1. 3rd base
        2. Outfielder 3. Utility guy who can play infield and outfield 4. Starter/reliever
        Combo guy. So minimum of 2 From 40 man have to go.

        3rd: Stewart or Reynolds outfielder: reed johnson utility guy: keppinger
        Starter/ reliever: gorzellany. These moves with everything else done I think
        Will make us solid

        . But if you trade Soriano and don’t have a run producer to replace
        That will be bad. Marmol can go remember the 1st week of 2012 he blew 3 saves
        In the 1st 5 games.

    • J-Nasty

      What is the rush to get them off the roster. You can leave them on until you sign more talent. Why risk losing them if you don’t have anyone better to take their place.

    • TonyP

      Add Jackson, Vitters, and Szcur to the list. I don’t think they will amount to anything close to league average players. I hope I’m wrong but I wouldn’t be upset if they were traded.

      And 1 rant about Jackson, how the heck can we be in the system as long as he has and they are just now figuring out he needs to swings revamped? Hasn’t he been striking out at a ridiculous pace all along?

      • http://wavesoftalent.webs.com tim

        Define league average?

        • TonyP

          I need one of the stat gurus to explain it because I won’t be able to well. But I know stats like WAR and OPS+ use league average as the baseline. And I don’t believe these three will put up positive WAR or OPS+ over 100 for various and different reasons for each. I think they will all be MLB players to some degree but they won’t approach being at All star level.

          • http://wavesoftalent.webs.com tim

            Many players on a roster, valuable ones, are below average. If a team were to DFA all the guys below league average, they couldn’t field a full roster. DFA Szczur if you want. Except, you can’t.

            That’s Theo’s job, and he hasn’t done it yet.

            • TonyP

              I was referring to trading them not DFAing them. I don’t believe any of them should be DFA.

          • Drew7

            OPS+ is based on league-average, but WAR is actually based on the value of a *replacement* player- a player that can be had without expending any resources (your run-of-the-mill minor league veteran, a FA signed for the league-minimum, etc).

            DeJesus is a good example: he had an OPS+ (If memory serves) of around 100, with a WAR of 1.5 or 2(?).

          • ChicagoMike702

            WAR uses replacement level, not average. Replacement level is say, the 25th man on the roster or a “AAAA” player. In theory, and I’ve found it surprisingly accurate, a team of replacement level players wins 52 games in a season and once you start adding players who generate wins, it goes up from there.

            They say a solid MLB starter should generate 2.0 or better a season. If a guy has a negative WAR, he basically doesn’t belong on an MLB roster even as a stopgap.

            An example of the accuracy, according the BB Ref the Cubs position players generated a WAR of 11.8 last season. The pitchers generated -.1. 52 (replacement level or WAR of 0 team) + 11.7 = Projected 63.7 wins on the season. The Cubs of course won 61, pretty darn close. Obvious variables are the manager and just being unlucky.

            • TonyP

              Thanks, I knew I didn’t understand it right but I still think Jackson, VItters, and Scuzer will amount to average, replacement or AAAA players. I’m basically just ranting after looking over the 40 man roster last night. It doesn’t look very promising, and filled with a lot of question marks and unusable players for next year.

              • ChicagoMike702

                Personally, I have some hope for Jackson being an MLB starter. His average and K rate are bad but he looks like a solid defender, he takes walks, has pretty good power and decent speed. The other 2 I don’t see it and I never saw the appeal of Szczur really.

                • TonyP

                  I could agree with Jackson being the most likely to find some success. I just don’t think in will ever get his K rate in a respectable place and if he could be traded for a potential #3 starter I would rather do that (probably not likely though) and find a know commodity on a 3-4 year deal while we rebuild the system.

    • http://wavesoftalent.webs.com tim

      Therein lies the rub.

    • Jackalope

      “Campana, Rusin, Raley and Clevenger…I would try to put those 4 in a trade”

      Good luck with that one. I hear the Royals are shopping Bruce Chen.

  • Kyle

    Freaking awesome. I’ve said that I consider the treatment of the bullpen to be the bellweather that shows how serious they are about putting a credible product on the field in 2013. This is a very nice start.

    • mudge

      the term is “bellwether.” A wether is a castrated ram, with a bell round its neck to lead the flock.

      • MichiganGoat

        The more you know; knowing is half the battle.

  • DocPeterWimsey

    I’m pretty “meh” on this, but I’ve long disliked the whole “closer” position. What I would prefer is to see Sveum start using his best relievers in the most threatening situations after the 6th inning rather than manage around getting a particular guy a save. That probably would make the difference of only 3-4 victories a year (remember, every time you save a game in the 7th this way, there is still a good chance that another reliever will blow it in the 8th or 9th to lesser hitters), but some year that might make a difference.

    • Kyle

      I’m not sure how much better he can do. The Hardball Times did that nice article showing how bullpen usage was matched to leverage, and the Cubs were third-best in the league.

      Traditional bullpen use doesn’t do a perfect job of matching pitcher to situation for maximum leverage, but it gets you most of the way there.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Right, and let me clarify: I was not blaming Sveum per se. It’s the whole idea of “let’s set aside our very best reliever and then try to shuffle #2-#5 in the best way we can.” Sveum obviously did OK there last year (although I do have some problems with how Hardball did that, I think that they are on the right path: and I think that their analyses might finally sink in the idea of what “bullpen by committee” should mean).

        And, of course, the manager who finally does get bullpen by committee right will have a relatively short run of extra success for it. Other managers will figure it out and the advantage will be gone. The exact same thing happened with closers: in the early 1970’s, a handful of smart managers began using guys like Fingers, Carrol, Marshall, Hiller, etc., to get through the last 2-3 innings of games. Those teams stood out as the teams who made playoffs a lot, and that contributed: in addition to improving the run prevention late, these teams preserved their starters better than did their competition. Within the decade, however, everyone was doing it: and the competitive advantage was greatly reduced.

        I’d just like to see the Cubs be the team sailing the HMS Dreadnaught for a change.

    • David

      re: the closer spot, I’ve heard the arguments against having a “true closer” and some of them I agree with. I believe that the guy who can come in in the 7th or 8th with men on and get out of it without runs scored can be more valuable. But by and large, it does seem as though all managers prefer to have a go-to guy for the 9th.

      Didn’t the red sox even try to do away with the traditional closer when Theo was there? If I remember right, it didn’t last long.

  • Fastball

    I don’t suppose you need to dump them today. But all those guys including Szcur, Jackson and Vitters need to be traded or something. I don’t care if we package them all up in one deal together for a 3b or a pitcher. They are all a dime a dozen IMO. Campana can’t hit to save his life. The rest of them can’t hit enough if you combined them all together to make one good hitter. Clevenger is a below average catcher. No gun, No bat. There are plenty of guys who can run down fly balls which is really all Campana, Szcur and Jackson are good for. If we trade them and one of them actually pans out, well good for them. I will bet a paycheck that none of those guys ever amount to anything at all. It’s like owning a racehorse that comes in 5th all the time. He doesn’t even get a check. The track pays the owners whose horses come in 1st – 4th. You can’t afford to feed something that doesn’t make you any money.

  • cheryl

    This was a good move. The cubs had to show some progress in being able to sign somebody other than players that had been non-tendered. Other signingsor trades at the winter meetins may be easier with someone of his rating signed. Even if it doesn’t work out there isn’t a longterm commitment that will strap them.

  • Fastball

    Doc is exactly right on his analogy. I agree with with Doc… first time ever. :)
    That is why I don’t think we need to trade Marmol just because we got Fujikawa. If we want to be good we need to keep them both. Marmol isn’t killing our payroll and he isn’t going to bring back a superior talent. So keep him and if he is having a banner year maybe we look to trade him later or just keep him if he is killing it for us. Signing one decent pitcher doesn’t mean we need to shit can another. Ricketts isn’t broke and I don’t think we need to be of the mindset that we need to jettison Marmol just because of this signing. We can’t always be a day late and dollar short.

    • BWA

      I honestly believe this front office will not just trade people for the sake of trading them like Hendry did, but if the right prospect is available for marmol now, they are certainly shopping him. Same goes for Soriano and Garza.

      • Kyle

        Hendry traded people for the sake of trading them?

        IIRC, the bigger complaint was that he didn’t trade people.

        • Ab

          Mostly referring to gorzellany

  • Fastball

    Right On Cheryl…

  • USS
  • Tommy

    I’m excited about this move considering the stats on the guy that Brett listed previously. Aside from that, it’s nice to see our FO continue to pick up some new faces and give us fans something to look forward to.

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