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.

Rakuten Golden Eagles sign Jabari Blash

Jabari Blash
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Former Angels outfielder Jabari Blash has signed a one-year deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, the team announced Friday. Per the Japan Times, the deal is said to be worth around $1.06 million. Blash was released from his contract with the Angels at the end of November.

The 29-year-old outfielder has had a rough go of it in the majors, where he failed to duplicate the promising results he delivered in the minors. While he consistently batted above .250 with 20-30 home runs per season at the Double- and Triple-A level, he petered out in back-to-back gigs with the Padres and Angels and slumped toward a .103/.200/.128 finish across 45 PA for Anaheim in 2018.

The hope, of course, is that the environment in NPB will help him get a better handle on his issues at the plate — in a best case scenario, resulting in a full-scale transformation that could make him more marketable to MLB teams in the future. To that end, Blash expects to be utilized as a cleanup batter in the Eagles’ lineup and will focus on assisting the club as they make a run toward the Japan Series.