The Cubs appear to have a new option for the ninth inning: Kyuji Fujikawa.
The Japanese closer is on the verge of signing with the Cubs, as multiple reports on Saturday said hes agreed to a two-year deal worth 9.5 million. Fox Sports reported the deal contains a vesting option for 2015 based on games finished 5.5 million or 6 million as well as a 5.5 million club option if it doesnt vest.
The Cubs declined to comment, but they also didnt deny that there was a lot of momentum heading in this direction. General manager Jed Hoyer confirmed on Friday that the Cubs had recently met with Fujikawa and came away impressed.
One door appeared to close for Fujikawa when Ryan Madson signed with the Los Angeles Angels and became their likely ninth-inning guy. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Baltimore Orioles were also said to be in the mix for the 32-year-old right-hander.
At this point, its unclear how aggressive the Cubs will be trying to move Carlos Marmol when the winter meetings begin on Monday in Nashville, Tenn. But his name will almost certainly be mentioned in the Gaylord Opryland lobby.
Marmols days seemed to be numbered anyway, as a short-term asset in an organization with a long-range vision. The Cubs had already gotten Marmol to waive his no-trade rights last month, before a deal with the Angels fell apart over concerns about Dan Haren.
Marmol is owed 9.8 million in the final year of his contract. He briefly lost his job last season, and frustrated the coaching staff with his insistence on throwing his slider. But he eventually bought in and regained their trust with a strong second half (1.52 ERA). He found confidence in his fastball and converted 19 straight save chances during one stretch.
Fujikawa wants to close and should get that opportunity in a Cubs uniform, whether or not it happens right away in 2013. He has experience from competing in the World Baseball Classic (2006 and 2009) as well as the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He has notched 220 career saves for the Hanshin Tigers.
Hoyer said the Cubs are looking to collect as many relievers as possible to pitch in high-leverage situations, in part to relieve the stress on Shawn Camp and James Russell. Also remember that Marmol was an All-Star setup guy in 2008.
Even if its not quite a closer controversy, you dont think the Cubs are done dealing yet.