Today, the Chicago Cubs introduced newly signed reliever Kyuji Fujikawa, who received a two-year, $9.5 million deal (with a 2015 team option). He got the jersey treatment and everything, complete with a fair bit of Japanese media (the hidden value in signing Japanese stars). The introductory press conference, at which Fujikawa spoke via a translator, offered a number of interesting bits about Fujikawa and the plans for the 2013 season. (Quotes available here and here, among other places.)
Among them, from Fujikawa …
- On choosing the Cubs after visiting Chicago and Wrigley Field: “From that day on, in my head it was Cubs, Cubs, Cubs.” Love it.
- On being a veteran on a young team: “I know that the team is very young. I am a veteran. I will try to led the young players, as well, and try to compete to win for the Cubs. I know what they’ve done last year, and hopefully we can do better next year. I’d like to be part of the building process for the Cubs future.”
- On the possibility of being “flipped” at the Trade Deadline (paraphrase): “I don’t care, and it’s up to the team.” Well that’s candid.
- Fujikawa added that he doesn’t plan to pitch in the World Baseball Classic so that he can instead focus on Spring Training with the Cubs.
And from Jed Hoyer …
- On Fujikawa’s stuff working in MLB: “He’s been known in Japan as a guy who can really pitch with his fastball, which is really important. He’s not a guy who tricks you. He actually comes right after guys. Guys who rely too much on trickery can often be guys the league figures out quickly. And our hope certainly is that because he pitches with his fastball, he’ll be able to pitch to a game plan and be able to establish himself and have a nice run.” My gut tells me that Japanese relievers have had a better time adjusting to MLB than starters, but I have to do some research to back that up.
- On the plan for Fujikawa vis a vis Marmol as the closer: “Our goal is to have the best bullpen possible, and you don’t have a good bullpen by having one good pitcher throwing the ninth inning. [Marmol] goes into the season as the closer. Our goal is to have a seven-man-deep bullpen of good arms, and Kyuji certainly adds to that.” I still think the Cubs would gladly move Marmol this offseason if the right offer came along, but Jed’s right: a good bullpen has several guys that *could* be closer material.
And from Theo Epstein …
- On Fujikawa being wooed as a closer: “[Fujikawa] said: ‘My job is not closer, it’s setup guy- to help the team win and do what the manager asks of me. And that’s the only time it came up in the whole discussion.” So, apparently the Cubs didn’t need to make any closer-related promises to land Fujikawa, which is excellent. Of course, his deal includes a great deal of closer-related incentives, so it’s still on everyone’s mind. But that might mostly be about 2014.
- On Fujikawa as a flip candidate down the line: “Our primary goal is to have him here as part of the solution. We’re a big believer in his talent, as well as his character, so we think he be a positive influence on our younger pitchers and will be a real stabilizer for our bullpen. We’re not signing him at all with the intent to trade him. Obviously, we’ll see what happens. Hopefully the team performs well and he’s pitching very important games for us.” I think it really is plausible that the Cubs view the possibility of contention in 2014 as realistic, and wanted to make sure to have someone like Fujikawa in place when that time comes. That said, if he dominates, the team sucks, and suitors come calling in July, we’ll see what’s what.