OAKLAND -- The A’s continued what has been a quietly active offseason on Wednesday by reaching an agreement with Japanese right-hander Shintaro Fujinami on a one-year contract. They made the one-year deal official on Friday.
Since his official posting by the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball organization, several teams were linked to the hard-throwing righty. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, who first reported the signing on Wednesday morning, the A’s plan to have Fujinami join their starting rotation, which may have been a heavy factor in his decision.
Fujinami, who turns 29 in April, spent 10 seasons with Hanshin, posting a 3.41 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 189 games pitched, with 1,011 strikeouts and 459 walks across 994 1/3 innings. He also played for Team Japan in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, tossing two scoreless innings of relief with four strikeouts in his lone appearance against China in the first round of the tournament.
Highly regarded as a pitching prospect in the same Draft class as Shohei Ohtani, Fujinami made the jump from high school to NPB and immediately excelled before encountering some troubling command issues about three years into his professional career. But signs of a resurgence have been evident over the past couple of years, including his 2022 campaign, during which Fujinami cut down his walk rate to a career-best 7.6% while posting a 3.78 ERA with 65 strikeouts over 66 2/3 innings.
Listed at 6-foot-6 and 180 pounds, Fujinami brings a three-pitch mix that features a fastball that has been clocked at 100 mph, along with a low-90s splitter and sharp slider that has flashed plus in the past.
Because Fujinami went through the NPB posting process, the A’s must pay a “release fee” that is 20% of the guaranteed amount of his contract to the Hanshin Tigers for the right to sign him to a Major League contract.
As far as Fujinami’s fit with Oakland, keeping him in a starting role would add another name to the growing list of candidates for the starting rotation. The A’s added left-hander Kyle Muller from the Braves in the Sean Murphy deal on Dec. 12 and also signed right-hander Drew Rucinski earlier this offseason, with Cole Irvin, Paul Blackburn, Ken Waldichuk, JP Sears, James Kaprielian, Adrián Martínez and Adam Oller all still on the roster as options who were part of last year’s rotation.