Shintaro Fujinami, the sought-after Japanese pitcher who was Oakland’s loudest offseason signing, is officially introduced Tuesday afternoon before the press.
Fujinami’s signing, a one-year, $3.25 million deal, headlined a seemingly quiet but active offseason for last season’s AL West cellar-dwellers, which is in the wake of yet another painful offseason, losing 2021 Gold Glove-winning backstop Sean Murphy to the Atlanta Braves.
“I’m excited to play in the Oakland A’s and pitch in the best league in the world,” an all-smiling Fujinami said in the presser, where he also noted he wants to be called ‘Fuji,’ in reference to his home country’s famous mountain.
Part of Fujinami’s decision to sign with the A’s is because of the team’s willingness to field him as a starter, a role not often entrusted to him back home as he usually does the relief duties for Hanshin.
“It’s important for him to have a chance as a starter, and that’s how we’ve seen him perform in Japan, so I expect him to be in the rotation,” A’s GM David Forst guaranteed before the media.
Meanwhile, Oakland skipper Mark Kotsay has this to say on his new rotation guy, “Obviously, he has ten years of experience which [none of our current pitchers] don’t have [considering the youth of our rotation], and even though it’s in Japan, it’s already [playing like you’re in] a Major League experience. We’re excited to have him on board and pitch for our staff.“
The 28-year-old Japanese pitcher features a three-pitch mix, bannered by a fastball clocked to 100 mph at maximum, paired by a split-finger that averages 98-99 mph and a sweeping slider.
Flanked in the same draft class as 2021 American League MVP Shohei Ohtani, he leaped into the higher ranks of NPB from high school. Encountering control issues midway thru his career, the 6-foot-6 180-pound Fujinami had a resurgent 2022 season, cutting down his BB rate to a personal-best 7.6% to end the impressive campaign with 3.78 ERA and 65 Ks thru 66.2 innings.
The hurler straight out of NPB’s Hanshin Tigers spent a decade with the team, posting a 3.41 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 189 games pitched for them. He also struck out 1,011 batters while walking 459 batters across almost a thousand innings pitched, both as a starter and a reliever (994.1 IP).
He also participated in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, repping Japan’s colors, and tossed two scoreless innings in relief in his only outing of the tournament vs. China.
Fujinami becomes the third pitcher acquired by Oakland this offseason. The Athletics is a team looking to compete decently in a division not only headlined by the defending champions Houston Astros but also by the Texas Rangers that won the Jacob deGrom sweepstakes while adding reliable starters Nathan Eovaldi from Boston and Andrew Heaney from Los Angeles to pair with their ace Martin Perez, the Seattle Mariners team that recently acquired Toronto outfielder Teoscar Hernandez and still has Luis Castillo to lead its young but promising rotation, and the ever-offseason-ready Los Angeles Angels squad that also made some arm splash by trading for Dodgers reliable Tyler Anderson and big bats in Brandon Drury, Gio Urshela, and Hunter Renfroe.