Quest for bullpen arms goes to Japan

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Off-season pitching battle turns to Bedard

I’m not sure why we didn’t see the Yanks connected with Japanese reliever Kazuo Fukumori before, but according to Newsday, they’ve announced their intentions to Alan Nero, Fukumori’s agent. You may remember Nero from this past week, when he approached the Yankees about a long-term deal for client Chien-Ming Wang, but cowered from making the first offer. Anyway, they’re supposedly one of 10 teams in on the righty, though I’m sure Nero is counting every team that has even a passing interest.

I’m not sure what to make of Fukumori. His strikeout rates are all over the place — it seems he’s either around 4.50 per 9 innings, or over one per inning, which has to give pause. For instance, he struck out 36 in 75 innings in 2005, and recorded a 3.57 ERA. In 2006, he struck out 55 in 58 innings, to an ERA of 2.17 ERA. In 2007, he kept his strikeout rate up — 33 in 36 innings — but had a 4.75 ERA.

Here’s a scouting report, courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors:

Might have emerged as a top-flight closer on a better team, but best years may have been wasted playing for expansion Rakuten Golden Eagles. Still, saved 21 games and was an All-Star in ’06. ERA jumped nearly two runs in 2007, but still saved 17 and maintained a strikeout per inning ratio. Has a formidable slider that tails toward right handed batters. Could emerge as a nice sleeper considering the number of solid closers possibly headed to the U.S.

Through all this, though, he’s always had a poor walk rate, which immediately has me saying “pass.” He also managed to toss only 36 innings last year, after having totals of 60, 48, 63, and 58 from 2003 through 2006. There’s just too much inconsistency there. If I want a guy who’s going to walk the farm, I’ll throw Bruney in the bullpen. He seems like he could do just as well as Fukumori at a far lesser cost.

MLB Trade Rumors also cites a source that says the Yanks think they’re in the lead for Ron Mahay (purple monkey dishwasher). We’ve heard rumors of Mahay seeking a three-year between $9 and $12 million. Once again, I’m not so keen on signing someone so old and so inconsistent to a long-term contract.

News on Shelley, some Andy's, the Viz and a steroid report
Off-season pitching battle turns to Bedard
  • huuz

    i agree…with the BB rates, I say pass.

    • Yankee Fan

      I agree, I don’t see anything special about the guy. Also, he is 33 yrs old and he missed most of last season due to an injury. On top of all that he wants a 2 year deal which we definetely shouldn’t do.

  • E-ROC

    I’m quite sure there are other Japanese relievers who are better than Fukumori

  • Grant

    It;s too bad that lefty decided to stay Japan side. Of course he may havve been artificialy overrated thanks to Okijima’s success. Of course if the scouts see something in this guy, what the heck, it can’t be that expesive.

  • Grant

    I did a quick check, unless I am reading this wrong Okijima was inconsistent as well, hopefully that means he gets shelled next year.

  • Mike Plugh

    Fukumori is a talented guy that doesn’t put it together consistently. He strikes me as a middle inning reliever moreso than a 7, 8, 9 kind of guy. I think he can be successful in the Majors, and should come at a discount, so there may be something interesting about him from that aspect. I’ve had e-mail exchanges with some MLB front office people about Fukumori, looking for info, and I think he’ll get a nice contract from someone. I sincerely doubt it would be the Yankees.

    The stupidity, should the Yankees sign him, is that both Yabuta and Kobayashi were available and signed with the Royals and Indians, respectively. If you are the Yankees, and need bullpen help, those were the guys to pursue from Japan. It would be true to form that the Yankees miss out on the good Japanese pitching and sign the lesser talent. There are very very good Japanese pitchers out there, including both Yabuta and Kobayashi, but the Yankees seem to have the idea that Irabu, Igawa, and Fukumori are the interesting guys.

    The Yankees should be looking at Hanshin closer Kyuji Fujikawa next season. He’s a lights out closer with tremendous stuff and could spell the 8th inning on a regular basis for a few years.

  • Mike Plugh

    Grant, Iwase is the lefty and he’s not overrated at all. He stayed because he has a chance to be in the record books in Japan and I think that means a lot to him.

    Okajima was on a downward trend, so Yomiuri released him. He won a Japan Series with Nippon Ham in 2006, and looked fairly good in doing it. That probably got him noticed by the Red Sox, but I would expect him to regress to the mean a bit in 2008. He simply doesn’t have the kind of stuff that translates to long term success the way he pitched last season. He’s talented though.

    The relief department is where Japanese baseball has most to offer MLB. Great everyday players are locked into long term indentured servitude, and the pitching has a shorter shelf life with the amount of high pitch counts and long term deals that guys have. Relief is a place where you can make a long enough career to still be on top when you become a FA. That’s where the Yankees should be looking for bullpen help….too late in 2007 though. Missed the boat.

  • E-ROC

    1B Raymond Nunez, just turned 17..6?2” 210, it’s being said that he grades as a 75 on the power scale

    Harold Grace, 22yr old, RHP, Dominican Republic…6?3” 190, hitting 98 & 99MPH during his tryouts. He sat 95MPH in a couple of Instruct games towards the end.

    Found this on in the Yankees forum. Is this true??

    • Chip

      Yes, those are both internation signees that signed on December 5th. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong

  • Count Zero

    Pass — on both of them. Although Mahay posted a nice loogy split last year, career-wise he hasn’t really been all that effective against lefties.

  • Travis G.

    Marte would be nice at the right price.

    Mike Plugh, Fujikawa DOES have great stats – 519 k, 131 bb and 288 hits in 405 ip! and just 28. is he a FA next year or will he require a posting fee?

  • RollingWave

    saw Fukumori pitch quiet a few times, the dude is insanely inconsistent, sometimes he looks crazy good with his FB /split finger mix, but other times he’s all over the place. granted the Golden Eagle’s manager was terriblly abusive on his pitchers. which might have been one reason for his inconsistentcy.

    Yeah Fujikawa is a huge star in Japan. i would like him. he’s Farnsworth with his head screwed on strait.

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