Cubs could look to Kohei Arihara in order to shore up pitching staff

Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports /

Right-hander Kohei Arihara has been posted; will the Cubs look to sign him?

In the grand scheme of things, the Chicago Cubs have been relatively quiet when it comes to bringing in players from the Nippon Professional Baseball League. The one name that comes to mind, of course, is Kosuke Fukudome – who inked a four-year, $48 million with the club in November 2007.

But given the team’s need of pitching, they could turn to Japan for answers. The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters posted right-hander Kohei Arihara late this week, allowing big league teams to pursue the 28-year-old pitcher.

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Arihara struck out 106 in 132 innings of work this season, working to a 3.46 ERA. That was a bit of step back from his historical performance, which could bode well for a cash-strapped organization like the Cubs. You can, at least in theory, see how that could drop his price tag – and the subsequent posting fee that would go to the Ham Fighters if he wound up coming to MLB.

Here’s what Sports Info Solutions had to say about Arihara’s arsenal:

"Arihara features a four seamer with decent run and rise as his primary fastball, which will range anywhere from 88 to 95 MPH in a given start. It’s hard to get a great gauge of where he sits with, but his ability to maintain most of the higher range of his velocity late into games suggests he likes to mix speeds rather than try to blow hitters away."

Now, you might not think the Cubs will be swimming in the international free agent pool this winter. But I disagree – for one main reason. Arihara is nowhere near a Shohei Ohtani, Masahiro Tanaka or Yu Darvish. All three of those guys came to the United States cemented as the best arms NPB had to offer.

Arihara is more of a question mark. It’s hard to know how well his skills would translate to the big leagues. I envision Ohtani’s former teammate as more of a middle-to-back-of-the-rotation presence who is capable of surprising you – as he did in 2019, when he turned in the best season of his professional career.

Perhaps the transition to Major League Baseball could be made a bit easier by Darvish, the anchor of Chicago’s starting rotation. The big right-hander is coming off a runner-up NL Cy Young performance in 2020 – and as someone who has experienced his shares of ups and downs in his career, would be a valuable sounding board for a guy like Arihara, who would be trying to get his feet under him.

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Chicago needs pitching depth. You’ve got your aces in Darvish and Kyle Hendricks, which could make Arihara feel more comfortable knowing there wouldn’t be outlandish expectations placed upon him right away. Personally, I’m all for crafty pitchers – and I think this guy could be worth a look.