There Was Nothing Wrong with the Kyuji Fujikawa Signing and Other Bullets

fujikawa cubsThe win over the White Sox yesterday did about as much as one game can do to wash the lingering elbow-surgery-bad-taste out of my mouth. But I’m still bitter.

  • Which is not to say you can be bitter about the Cubs signing Kyuji Fujikawa in the first place. It’s not like the reliever, who now has to have Tommy John surgery, had an injury history that suggested this was coming. A $9.5 million sunk cost is absorbable, and was worth the risk (and Fujikawa still might be effective next year in the second half). Fujikawa was performing well when healthy, and I think the Cubs probably made a good bet. But the Dark Overlord of Spite turned his evil gaze upon the Cubs on Sunday, using his laser eyes of injustice to explode Fujikawa’s UCL. Not much the Cubs could have done about that, and they can’t be blamed for not anticipating a freak injury that seems to happen to a variety of pitchers, indiscriminately.
  • Jed Hoyer said, per ESPN, that the Cubs reviewed multiple MRIs for Fujikawa before finalizing his deal, and they are confident that this is just something that happened, and there was no way to know it was coming. Fujikawa, 32, called it the first major injury of his career. More thoughts from Hoyer here, including his note that, when you start talking about the forearm, you get nervous.
  • Patrick Mooney on the disappointment associated with Fujikawa, Arodys Vizcaino, and Scott Baker, all of whom are dealing with varying degrees of bad Tommy John surgery luck.
  • Jed Hoyer says that Albert Almora (hamstring strain/pull/tightness/whatever) is already running “foul pole to foul pole” and should be back in action soon.
  • Junior Lake is playing in extended Spring Training games finally! That, per Arizona Phil at TCR, who says the Cubs yesterday gave Lake the you-bat-every-inning treatment typically reserved for rehabbing players who are expected to head back out to their respective teams soon. We heard yesterday that some Iowa coaches believe Lake wouldn’t be back at AAA for another four weeks, but maybe it will be sooner than that. I don’t think Lake is going to be getting five or six Extended Spring Training at bats every day for the next four weeks. He’ll probably play, then take a day or two off. Then play again, then a little break. Once he’s able to play a handful of games in a row, I expect we’ll see him sent to AAA Iowa. Maybe it’ll be four weeks, maybe it’ll be sooner.
  • The attendance for yesterday’s Cubs/Sox game – annually a virtual lock for a sell-out – was just a touch over 31,000, or about 10,000 short of a sell-out. If that doesn’t make the Cubs nervous about attendance issues, I don’t know what will. Hell, it makes me nervous.
  • BN’er Lance took a huge, awesome set of pictures from this weekend’s Kane County action, and you can see the shots here. I love seeing the young guys enjoying the game.
  • In case you missed my interview yesterday with author Chris Neitzel, check it out.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

65 responses to “There Was Nothing Wrong with the Kyuji Fujikawa Signing and Other Bullets”

  1. cjdubbya

    Bowden outrighted to Iowa, apparently.

  2. Aisle 424

    Fujikawa was a decent bet, but what it does underscore is how hard it is to build a bullpen through free-agency. The system HAS to start churning out some power arms that can be used in relief for league minimum, so that when they suck (as relief pitchers tend to do, because, you know, they’re generally not good pitchers or they’d be starters) or get hurt they can be swapped out for the next guy – no harm no foul.

    That’s pretty much what the Cardinals do. Even some of their better prospects see time in the bullpen first and then get slotted into the rotation when a spot opens.

    1. Voice of reason

      I believe you are partially correct. Yes, the team needs to start developing power arms, but as starters not as relievers.

      You said it’s hard to build a bullpen through free agency. That’s where I disagree. Because you can swap out relievers and turn over the closer role duringnthe season it’s not that important to build a bullpen throughout he minor leagues. Look at the closers at the start of the season for each team and tell me how many finish the year in that same role.

      You are right, though, in that the team needs to develop power arms, but as starters. Then if don’t pan out, they might be solid relievers. You eluded to that point in your post.

      1. Aisle 424

        Swapping out FA relievers is expensive. They are terrible value. Terrible. Mercker, Veres, Howry, Guthrie, Eyre, Aardsma, Remlinger…

        It has to come from the system so you aren’t flushing $10M down the toilet every time the baseball Gods decide to wreak havoc.

        1. Kyle

          I don’t think you can pick out some bad ones and declare FA relievers a universally bad investment.

          Not to mention some of those worked out reasonably well for the Cubs.

        2. Voice of reason

          Terrible value is Pujols and Alex Rodriguez contracts.

          Rolling the dice on an aardsma or an eyre isn’t anything in the overall budget. What’s $3 million for one player? Times that by 4 and it’s $12 million. That bullpen could be just as productive as a bullpen with some big names and big contracts. Relievers are funny. You can have a bullpen do really well one year and the next year go in with that same bullpen and it could suck.

          I don’t have a problem at all with the signing. I’m just making an overall point on bullpens.

      2. BluBlud

        Voice of reason, you are correct. Develop guys as starters, and when they are ready to make the show, you bring them up as BP guys. Drew Smyly would be the perfect comp for this situation. He is dominating out the pen this year, because he is actually a pretty good pitcher, who could be a starter. When they have a spot for him, he will move into the rotation and the next “starter” will probably get moved up and into the pen. If you can have just 2 or 3 of these guys in the pen, it makes things much easier for the rest of the pen.

        1. Voice of reason

          Blublood, I agree.

          Two names that come to mind are Pedro Martinez and John smiley. Both came up as middle relievers and grew into solid starters.

          1. BluBlud

            Both came up as starters, who spent time as a reliever, but moved back to starter when needed. I see your point.

    2. Norm

      But he’s the ONLY free agent in the bullpen, right?
      Everyone else was developed through the system, a Rule 5 guy, or claimed off the trash pile.

      Signing one free agent to at least attempt to have an anchor that you can count on is a sound philosophy, IMO.

  3. Voice of reason

    While the investment is absorbable and I’m not upset with the signing, the fact of the matter is that the man is 32 years old. That arm had thrown a lot of innings prior to his signing.

    I’d rather stick to signing the younger players be it in the united states or overseas. That said, a pitcher can still blow his arm out at 22, but he has less innings and the potential for a much longer and healthy career. At 32, how much longer could he have pitched anyhow?

    1. Melrosepad

      VoR, you make it sound like Kyuji was around the same age as Camp at 37 or even older. There have been lots of relievers who have pitched well at older ages. Having young players is great, but part of the reason they looked at Kyuji is that he had experience in closing. Yes it was overseas, but he would be an experienced arm in the bullpen who could possibly hold down the closer roll and help out some of the young arms that would end up out there with him.

    2. AB

      “Rolling the dice on an aardsma or an eyre isn’t anything in the overall budget. What’s $3 million for one player?”

      “the fact of the matter is that the man is 32 years old. That arm had thrown a lot of innings prior to his signing.”

      Haha, how do you not see the contradictions in the things you post. You’re all over the map.

      1. Voice of reason

        I’m all over the map?

        You are lifting quotes from two different posts. The second quote you didn’t even quote me entirely. You can’t tie two different posts together and say im contradicting myself as I’m responding to two different individual posts.

        Why do I justify this when were having a reasonable discussion……


  4. Cubbie Blues

    I always had the understanding that the insurance was only used for the really big contracts due to its absorbent cost.

    1. hansman1982

      Absorbent cost? The cost of these insurance contracts soaks up spills pretty well?

      1. Cubbie Blues


  5. Stu

    Shocked by the attendance drop off? Really?

    1. Cubbie Blues

      Shocked only appears once on this page. Well, now twice. Nobody is “that word” that there is a down trend in attendance. It does seem a bit low for this series though.

  6. Timmy

    This is an easy one. He was a quality pitcher for a good price who seemed to be healthy. Players get injured. You gotta try to find deals like this, and you gotta sign talented players if you can. It’s the absence of effort by general management that would be criticized.

  7. Ross Wallace

    Interesting to go back to Cubs Con and Theo/Jed’s comments on TJ. Both very confident in the success rate of the surgery but seems like the cubs have been snake bitten this year and on the wrong side if those percentages. See if they change their minds going into this off season

  8. Cheryl

    Aren’t there other avenues to tap into for pitching besides foreign markets, high school and college? There seems to e a tendency to concentrate on four year colleges. A lot of players go the junior college route because they can’t afford the four years and there’s limited scholarships. Is ther much scouting of them? That might be an avenue to explore more.

    1. BluBlud

      I think pretty much evey major league prospect and player either comes from College, High School or is foreign. ;)

      1. Cheryl

        True. But the economy is having an affect on choices today. I know of at least two people who took a look at expenses and decided they had no choice but to go the junior college route.

        1. Cyranojoe

          Junior college scouting may be one of the last remaining areas where a team can get an advantage over other teams. Question if the investment is worthwhile, but it could be…

        2. hansman1982

          The thing is, the kids who are good enough to crack A+ ball (let alone MLB) are going to either sign after high school or get full-ride scholarships. Paying for college is the last concern for most of these kids.

          1. Jacob

            Unless a kid with that level of talent goes to a small school area high school. There’s a chance that there is a future MLB caliber player who ends up going to JUCO, because he doesn’t get looked at, because his HS is too small. I understand that the chances are very very slim… but there’s still a chance.

            1. Cubbie Blues


              1. Jacob

                I can’t see your picture… lol

                1. Cubbie Blues

                  Let’s try again.

                  1. Jacob

                    haha nice.

          2. DocShock

            I don’t believe that is actually true. From what I can tell based on conversations with coaches and players, there are very few, if any, full rides in college baseball. In most schools college baseball is a second tier sport and therefore is not given as much scholarship money as other sports, especially because outside of football the baseball team typically has more players than other sports.
            So to suggest that if you are a great high school baseball player that you will get a full ride to where you want to go is not completely accurate. Not to mention issues with things like grades and assessment scores keeping you out of college.
            Most really good players will get a decent scholarship and probably some additional help with grants or academic scholarships or other legal funding but not all. There are several guys who go the junior college route and then move to a bigger school. There are also some who play ball at small colleges who get drafted.
            It is a bad assumption to believe that all the best players have full rides and play for big time schools.

            1. Cubbie Blues

              Here are the scholarship rules.

              Division I schools are allowed the equivalent of 11.7 full scholarships; Division II schools, only 9.0. Schools generally choose to award multiple partial scholarships rather than exclusively full scholarships. In Division I, the NCAA also limits the total number of players receiving baseball-related financial aid to 27, and also requires that each of these players receive athletic aid equal to at least 25% of a full scholarship.

              1. ssckelley

                This supports the original comments point, mining Juco’s for talent. With the NCAA restrictions on the amount of scholarships they can give out there is probably some talented baseball players that end up in Juco because of the expense. Even getting a partial scholarship to a D1 school can end up more expensive than a Juco.

                1. Cubbie Blues

                  I was neither trying to argue for or against. Only stating the wiki facts.

    2. hansman1982

      College baseball, really, isn’t that much different than football. The best programs are going to be in the 4-year schools, as such, the best players are going to go to 4-year schools.

      1. Cubbie Blues

        Except for your head cases like Randy Moss.

      2. wvcubsfan

        Also the best JUCO players often will transfer into a 4-year program. I don’t remember many players being drafted highly out of JUCO, unless they were trying to game the system like Harper did.

      3. ssckelley

        But the huge difference in Football is there are not 80 scholarships (or whatever the number is) to give out for baseball and there are many more college football programs than there are baseball as some schools do not even offer baseball.

  9. North Side Irish

    Carrie Muskat ‏@CarrieMuskat 54s
    Putnam called up, Burnett to Iowa. Fuki to 60 day DL. #Cubs

  10. itzscott

    I was never a fan of these “bets” by Epstein & Hoyer of going after injured players post-surgery.

    Fujikawa, Arodys Vizcaino, and Scott Baker…. sometime when you roll the dice you win, but most times not.

  11. Cubbie Blues

    Fujikawa: not injured before we got him.
    Arodys Vizcaino: Who else were you going to get for Maholm? Still could be an asset.
    Scott Baker: Let’s let this one play out a bit more.

    1. brickhouse

      You could have received a healthy mlb ready prospect for Maholm.

  12. North Side Irish

    Keith Law and Jonathan Mayo posted new Mock Drafts today and both have the Cubs taking Appel. Both have the Astros taking different players though…Law has Moran going 1.1 and the Cubs choosing Appel over Gray. Though he does say he’s heard Epstein loves Gray, but there is a lot of debate in the FO between the two SPs.

  13. Die hard

    Same old same old —- and will be more as Ricketts turned keys to candy store over to a GM with a sweet tooth

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