Cubs ink Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa to two-year, $9.5 million deal

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UPDATE: Rosenthal reports that Fujikawa is guaranteed $9.5 million as part of his deal with the Cubs. That’s a pretty nice chunk of change for a rebuilding team to give to a closer, especially one who has never pitched in the United States, but the Cubs are obviously confident he can make an impact in the late innings.

Fujikama will receive a $1 million signing bonus and salaries of $4 million for 2013 and 2014. The vesting option for 2015 is worth $5.5 million and could increase to $6 million based on games finished. If the option doesn’t vest, the Cubs hold a $5.5 million club option that can be bought out for $500,000.

4:50 PM: We heard last night that the Angels were considered the front-runners to land Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa. But it turns out he’ll be headed elsewhere.

According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs have an agreement in place with Fujikawa. No word yet on the terms involved, but Rosenthal hears that the 32-year-old right-hander will get a two-year deal with a vesting option for a third.

Fujikawa is coming off a dominant run in Japan in which he posted a 1.36 ERA and 202 saves over the past six seasons with the Hanshin Tigers. Armed with a low-90s fastball, a slider and a forkball, he had a 1.32 ERA and 58/15 K/BB ratio over 47 2/3 innings this past season.

Rosenthal notes that Fujikawa will likely be used as the Cubs’ closer, so Carlos Marmol figures to be on the trade block in the coming days and weeks. The 30-year-old right-hander is owed $9.8 million next season and is due to hit free agency next offseason. He was nearly traded to the Angels last month for Dan Haren, but the deal reportedly fell apart due to concerns over Haren’s medicals.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.