MLB rumors: Shintaro Fujinami, Athletics agree to one-year contract

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Report: Japanese flamethrower Fujinami agrees to A's deal originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The Athletics reportedly have invested in Japanese talent in the midst of their quiet offseason, grabbing a pitcher who has drawn past comparisons to MLB superstar Shohei Ohtani.

Hard-throwing righty Shintaro Fujinami and the A's are in agreement on a one-year contract, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported Wednesday, citing a source.

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Oakland was among several finalists for Fujinami, MLB Network's Jon Morosi also reported Wednesday, and a spot in the A's starting rotation might have been what pushed the team over the top.

The 28-year-old was posted by the Hanshin Tigers of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball organization last month after 10 seasons with the club. Last year, he pitched to a career-best 1.118 WHIP in 107 1/3 innings while boasting a fastball that has been clocked at 100 mph.

Fujinami was a high school phenom in the same draft class as Ohtani, going straight to the pros and excelling. He struggled with command issues and injuries a few years into his professional baseball career, however, then jumped between the Tigers' first team and farm system after that.

In 2022, however, Fujinami bounced back with a 3.38 ERA in 10 starts and six relief appearances, posting a career-best 7.6 percent walk rate. It's possible the A's might have struck gold with his raw talent, which features a three-pitch arsenal with a low-90s splitter and sharp slider to go along with his high-heat fastball.

"He is someone who, at a time in his career, was viewed as being as electrifying as [Yu] Darvish or Ohtani," Morosi said Wednesday on MLB Network. "... A really dynamic repertoire that I believe will allow him to have success with the Oakland Athletics, as long as he's not counted on to throw necessarily 180 innings or more."

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With an A's rotation featuring candidates like Cole Irvin, Paul Blackburn and a host of other undecided options on the roster, Fujinami should be able to slip right into Oakland's starting group with plenty of support.