Should Red Sox overlook glaring issues with Shintaro Fujinami?
The Boston Red Sox need pitching.
That’s almost always the case, even when they have more starting pitchers than they know what to do with. As of December 13, their starter options include Brayan Bello, Garrett Whitlock, Nick Pivetta, Chris Sale, James Paxton, Tanner Houck, and Josh Winckowski. They also have some depth in the minors.
It’s certainly not a thrilling arms collection, but while quality is more important than quantity, in some years, the Sox have had neither. Quantity is a step in the right direction.
Still, Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom says the Sox want to add another starting pitcher. The market is thin, though, and after losing out on several free agent pitchers – including but not limited to Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, Chris Bassitt, Andrew Heaney, and Zach Eflin – they’ll either need to match the enormous offers currently rolling in for Carlos Rodón, make a big trade, or most likely, target an unexpected pitcher in whom Bloom sees ‘upside.’
There’s also Shintaro Fujinami, the 28-year-old righty whom the Hanshin Tigers posted on December 1.
The Sox gave out a huge contract and posting fee to another Japanese player, Masataka Yoshida, last week, but Fujinami is reportedly significantly more affordable. MLB Trade Rumors would consider it a ‘major surprise’ if he commanded a contract in excess of $25M. Of course, ESPN also reported that several scouting directors around the league think Yoshida is worth less than half of what the Sox are paying him.
"“Increasingly, the 6′6″ righty battled control problems. That erratic strike-throwing led the Tigers to shuttle him back-and-forth between NPB and their minor league affiliate frequently through 2019. He spent the majority of his time at Japan’s top level in 2020-21 but posted respective ERA’s of 4.01 and 5.21. Fujinami again split his 2022 campaign between NPB and the minors, only throwing 66 2/3 innings at the highest level.”MLB Trade Rumors"
Should Red Sox overlook Shintaro Fujinami’s command issues?
Fujinami debuted when he was 18 and was excellent in the first few seasons of his career. Over 10 years with the Hanshin Tigers and their minor-league affiliate, he’s kept his ERA under four in all but one year. However, between 2019-21, he only threw between 79-98 innings each season, including his time in the minor leagues. While MLBTR notes that Fujinami seemed to turn things around in 2022, he only pitched 66 2/3 innings for the Tigers and spent the rest of the season with their minor-league team.
For the right price, the Sox could use Fujinami as a bullpen arm, and he might provide immense depth. However, Bloom said they wanted to sign three bullpen arms, and they’ve already added Joely Rodriguez, Chris Martin, and Kenley Jansen. The Sox might want to focus on improving the lineup, so the newly-fortified bullpen actually has a lead to preserve once in a while.
Japanese outlet Nikkan Sports reports that the Arizona Diamondbacks have emerged as the favorite to sign Fujinami, but the Sox and San Francisco Giants have also been linked to him. Teams have a 45-day window to work out a deal with a player once he’s been posted. For Fujinami, that’s January 15. After throwing money at Yoshida hours after he was posted, the Sox should be careful rushing into anything. With Xander Bogaerts gone, they have significantly more pressing issues.