The Chicago Cubs and right-handed pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa have agreed to terms on a two-year contract with a vesting/club option for the 2015 season. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Fujikawa, 32, joins the Cubs after pitching all or part of 12 seasons with the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League. The righthander went 42-25 with 220 saves and a 1.77 ERA (136 ER/692.1 IP) covering 562 appearances, all but 14 as a relief pitcher. Fujikawa twice led the league in holds (46 in 2005 and 30 in 2006), twice led the league in saves (46 in 2007 and 41 in 2011) and has posted a 1.32 ERA or lower in four of the last five seasons. He won the Central League Most Valuable Setup Pitcher Award in 2005.
The six-foot, 190-pound Fujikawa totaled 914 strikeouts and only 207 walks in 692.1 innings pitched, an average of 11.9 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings and a 4.4-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio. He also only allowed a total of 667 hits or walks in 692.1 innings for a career WHIP of 0.96.
Fujikawa made his Hanshin debut in 2000 and enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2005 when he went 7-1 with 46 holds and a 1.36 ERA (14 ER/92.1 IP) in a league-leading 80 relief appearances as the Tigers won the league championship. He posted 30 holds, 17 saves and a 0.68 ERA, allowing only six earned runs in 79.1 innings pitched in 2006 before completing his first full season as a closer in 2007 and leading the league with 46 saves.
Overall between 2005-07, Fujikawa was a three-time Central League All-Star and struck out at least 100 batters in each season, the first time a relief pitcher had ever done so in three-straight seasons in Japan. Fujikawa went 8-1 with 38 saves in 2008 and followed with seasons of 25 saves (2009) and 28 saves (2010) before once again leading the league with 41 saves in 2011.
In the last six seasons (2007-12), Fujikawa averaged 12.4 strikeouts, 2.3 walks and only 0.4 home runs allowed per nine innings, had a 5.43-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio and tallied a 0.86 WHIP. Last season, Fujikawa went 2-2 with 24 saves and a 1.32 ERA (7 ER/47.2 IP) in 48 relief appearances.
Fujikawa has pitched for Team Japan in several international competitions, including helping the 2006 and 2009 teams to the World Baseball Classic Gold Medal and also pitching in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.