Is Shitarō Fujinami an Option for the Phillies in 2024?

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Shintaro Fujinami
Oakland Athletics pitcher Shintaro Fujinami throws to a Boston Red Sox batter during the seventh inning of a baseball game Tuesday, July 18, 2023, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

The Phillies’ options for free-agent pitching are starting to fall off the board, with Jordan Hicks being the most recent one. Fortunately, there are still free-agent options the Phillies can sign. One name that might be on the Phillies’ radar is Shintarō Fujinami.

Shintarō Fujinami (藤浪 晋太郎)

Shintarō Fujinami is a 6’6″ right-handed pitcher with an arsenal that includes a 103 MPH fastball. His other two pitches are a slider and mid-to-high 80s slider, with the splitter having a high whiff rate.

Posted on December 1, 2022, by the Hanshin Tigers, Fujinami signed with the Oakland Athletics for $3.25 million. His 0-4 record and 14.40 ERA got him sent to the bullpen where he improved slightly. Baltimore took a shot on Fujinami and traded for him on July 19, 2023, for Minor League lefty Easton Lucas. He improved in Baltimore and lowered his ERA to 4.85 but he still wasn’t that great. He blew three save opportunities, had two holds, and two saves. Of his six inherited runs, two scored.

Fujinami wants to be a starter, and while the Phillies currently have a few pitchers who can be the fifth starter, he would be another arm who could fight for that spot. I don’t see him being the fifth starter, I believe that role goes to Cristopher Sánchez until Mick Abel gets the call-up.

Shintaro Fujinami
Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Shintaro Fujinami warms up in the outfield during batting practice before playing against the Tampa Bay Rays in a baseball game Friday, July 21, 2023, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Scott Audette)

Cause for Concern

The concern for Fujinami is his control. When his pitches are working, he’s on fire and it’s hard to hit against him. When he’s off, he will allow a lot of walks and runs, causing games to get out of hand at times.

Fortunately, the Phillies and pitching coach, Caleb Cotham, have experience in. That was Jose Alvarado’s issue when the Phillies traded for him from Tampa Bay. Ever since Alvarado was sent down to Lehigh Valley, he has been a completely different pitcher. He went from a hard-throwing lefty who struggles to control his pitches to the high-leverage closer. While every pitcher is different, Fujinami improved when he went to Baltimore and could improve further in Philadelphia.

Bigger Picture

The Phillies have been increasing their presence in Japan for the past few years, going so far as to try and sign players recently coming in from Nippon Professional Baseball.

They were heavily in on NPB superstar Yoshinobu Yamamoto, offering him over $300 million during the length of the contract. The players coming over from NPB are only going to get better, with a handful of prospects expected to be posted within the next couple of years.

Having a player like Fujinami on the roster would help the Phillies acquire other NPB talent and solidify their presence in Japan.

Should the Phillies Sign Him?

In my opinion, the Phillies should take a chance on Shintarō Fujinami. He wouldn’t cost a lot of money and has a ton of upside. He is a low-risk, high-reward player who fits a need for the Phillies.

The worst that could happen is he just doesn’t work out and either gets traded or released at the deadline. That happens all the time and wouldn’t be anything unusual. The best that could happen is he has a solid role in the bullpen and is the hard-throwing righty the Phillies need in the bullpen.

The Phillies still have options, but they’re starting to come off the board and improvements still need to happen to the roster. The offseason has been boring so far, but Dave Dombrowski works in silence and Fujinami would be a sneaky good signing.

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)