The Cubs finally made their signing of Kyuji Fujikawa official Friday, complete with a press conference where Fujikawa got to put on his fresh new Cubs jersey with his selected number 11. The show case was reminiscent of a day few years ago when the North Siders welcomed their first Japanese signing in Kosuke Fukudome.
The media and fans learned a few things about their new import, including Fujikawa admitting that he fell in love with Chicago after his initial visit to Wrigley Field during his free agent process. Most figured the Angels were the lead dog, what with their position to contend in 2013 and certainly the pockets to meet Fujikawa’s salary demands. But the member of the 2009 WBC championship team made it clear that he was aware that he would be stepping into the middle of a rebuilding project. Fujikawa is on board with helping the younger arms in the pen and doing what he can to get the team back on the winning path.
There also appears to be a mutual understanding that Fujikawa will not be the closer in 2013. That is barring a trade of incumbent closer Carlos Marmol of course. But in the days leading up to and into Friday’s unveiling, the Cubs front office and staff was starting to come of sounding like Bears head coach Lovie Smith during the Rex Grossman era. “Rex is our quarterback.” “Rex is our quarterback.” “Carlos is our closer.”
At the Fujikawa press conference, the Cubs brass confirmed that they had reached out to Marmol’s agent to reassure the right hander that he would remain as the team’s closer. However, what is really interesting is that Paul Sullivan’s piece today on the Fujikawa signing mentions that the Cubs expect Fujikawa to be the closer in 2014. Did anyone else just hear the music scratch to a halt in the club? Sullivan did not include any quotes from either Theo Epstein or Jed Hoyer, yet he specifically writes that Fujikawa will close in the second year of his deal.
We already know the Cubs tried to deal Marmol once already this off season. While the team may not actively look to deal him between now and Opening Day, Sullivan’s comment hints that Marmol will almost certainly be dealt by the trade deadline. After all, 2013 will be the final year of Marmol’s current contract with the North Siders. Why let him walk next off season with no plans to contend this season when you can get a pair of prospects for an experienced closer?
The more we hear “Carlos is our closer”, the more it sounds like the proverbial vote of confidence before ties are cut, even if it happens later rather than sooner. Cue the Marmol farewell tour now.