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Cubs sign Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa to two-year deal

TOKYO - MARCH 09:  Pitcher Kyuji Fujikaw#22 Japan throws pitch during World Baseball Classic Pool A match between Japan

TOKYO - MARCH 09: Pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa #22 of Japan throws a pitch during the World Baseball Classic Pool A match between Japan and South Korea at Tokyo Dome on March 9, 2009 in Tokyo, Japan. South Korea defeated Japan, 1-0. (Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Kyuji Fujikawa

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Updated: January 3, 2013 11:01AM

The Cubs appeared to get their biggest order of business for the winter meetings this week completed before arriving in Nashville, Tenn.

According to multiple reports Saturday, the Cubs agreed to terms with top Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa on a two-year, $9.5 million deal that could make closer Carlos Marmol expendable.

The Cubs would neither confirm nor deny the reports involving the 32-year-old right-hander who recently narrowed his choices to the Cubs and Angels. He had said he planned to base his decision in large part on getting an opportunity to close.

The Cubs appeared to be in the driver’s seat after the Angels signed free-agent closer Ryan Madson early last week.

While the signing could signal the end of Marmol’s tenure with the Cubs, comments by general manager Jed Hoyer on Friday suggest that might not be the case.

‘‘I think whenever you build a bullpen, you want as man guys who have a chance to pitch late in the game as possible,’’ Hoyer said of Marmol, who came within a sketchy medical report of being traded to the Angels for starter Dan Haren last month. ‘‘If we bring in somebody capable of closing, that’s no knock on Marmol.’’

Marmol, who was demoted from the closer role for lengthy stretches each of the last two seasons, has one year and $9.8 million left on his contract.

Fujikawa visited Wrigley Field on
Nov. 15 and met with Hoyer and team president Theo Epstein. He told Japanese media he liked the similarities between Wrigley Field and 88-year-old Koshien Stadium, where his Tigers play (including ivy and natural grass, a rare surface in Japanese ballparks).

‘‘We came away very impressed,’’ Hoyer said.

The Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Orioles also offered contracts to Fujikawa.

His deal reportedly includes a $5.5 million vesting option for 2015 that becomes a club option if it doesn’t vest.

Money matters

The Cubs have eight players on their
projected 2013 big-league roster** under contract — only two beyond next season — at a total of $51.4 million.

Thru 2013 salary

LF Alfonso Soriano 2014 $18 million

RHP Carlos Marmol 2013 $9.8 million

RHP Scott Feldman 2013 $6 million

RHP Scott Baker 2013 $5.5 million

SS Starlin Castro 2019* $5 million

RF David DeJesus 2013* $4.25 million

C Dioner Navarro 2013 $1.5 million

RHP Shawn Camp 2013 $1.35 million

*Plus a club option for one more year.

**Minor-leaguers Jorge Soler (2020) and
Gerardo Concepcion (2016) are under big-league deals for about $1.25 million combined in 2013.

Note: Up to four arbitration-eligible players, including Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija, are expected to account for another $15-17 million; the Cubs’ 2012 opening payroll was about $111 million.


Cubs’ top five needs heading into this week’s winter meetings:

1. Pitching: Reportedly signed Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa

2. Third baseman: Jeff Keppinger could be part of platoon

3. Pitching: With Baker, Garza coming off DL, Cubs still seek SP

4. Center fielder: Hamilton holding up even lower-price market

5. Pitching: Rule 5 or minor-league free agent starter this week?


The Cubs don’t expect to make any significant trades out of the winter meetings, but GM Jed Hoyer said he doesn’t consider anyone on the roster untouchable:

“I don’t think we can. We lost 101 games last year. I don’t think we’re in a position to say we have enough talent that any one player is untouchable. But there are several players that we would have a hard time parting with. It could take a heck of a package to make it happen.’’

In other words, Starlin Castro (above) is not going anywhere.

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