Fujikawa, 32, has been the Hanshin Tigers closer and has absolutely dominated the Japanese League for the past decade. This past season, he posted a 1.32 ERA and struck out 58 in 47.2 innings. He has posted sub-1.00 ERAs twice in his career, in 2006 his ERA was 0.68 and in 2008 he posted a 0.67 ERA.
He averages just over 12 strikeouts per nine innings, though most of his truly dominant work seems to be behind him. For three consecutive seasons, 2005-2007, he posted over 100 strikeouts each year with a career-high 139 strikeouts in 92.1 innings in 2005.
Fujikawa can run his fastball up to 94 MPH but usually sits a tick below that at 91-93. His fastball doesn’t have much movement to it so he uses a nasty splitter to keep hitters off balance.
Fujikawa will be a true free agent which means there will be no posting process that we have grown accustomed to with players from Japan. He is also represented by Arn Tellem. New York Yankees fans might recognize Tellem’s name from his representing Mike Mussina, Jason Giambi, and Hideki Matsui.
The Yankees might have a glaring need for a reliever this winter if Rafael Soriano opts out as expected and the Yankees might quickly be a player for Fujikawa’s services.
If the Yankees happen to re-sign Ichiro Suzuki and Hiroki Kuroda, Fujikawa would have an easy time assimilating to living in the United States as he will have two of the best players currently in the majors to come over from Japan.
Considering the Yankees possible need, the fact that there will be some of the biggest stars from Japan on the roster, and Fujikawa is represented by someone who has done a lot of deals with GM Brian Cashman and the Yankees could emerge as the favorite to sign the reliever.
Of course, with all things concerning the Yankees in the next couple of years, Fujikawa’s asking price could factor heavily into whether or not the Yankees pursue the pitcher. Right now, the Yankees are focused on getting below the $189 million luxury tax threshold by 2014 and they might decide that investing a few million dollars in a reliever is a poor allocation of their money. Then again, these are the Yankees so one can never tell.