The Oakland Athletics signed Shintaro Fujinami before the 2023 season. By the middle of the 2023 season, it was safe to say that signing was terrible. Fujinami was not ready to start in the major leagues. After seven starts, Oakland started to use him out of the bullpen. The Baltimore Orioles traded for Fujinami at the trade deadline and continued to give him chances to pitch out of the bullpen. His performance was marginally better for the Orioles, but he still left much to be desired.
So, why should the Royals be interested in the righty? The same reason any MLB team should: the potential. He flashed an elite fastball as a starter, reaching 102.6 MPH in 2023. His pairing that offering with his split finger and cutter buoyed his career in Asia, but control issues negated much of his fastball's effectiveness. He posted a much improved ERA as a reliever, but he still has much room for improvement.
While Fujinami's control issues have been a concern, it is important to note that many successful relievers have overcome similar challenges. With the right coaching and support, Fujinami has the potential to improve his control and become an effective reliever. Additionally, his ability to consistently hit high velocities with his fastball suggests that his control issues may be more related to fine-tuning than a fundamental flaw in his mechanics.
Fujinami's MLB future is as a reliever, not as a starter. He has the stuff to succeed as a set-up man, possibly a future closer. But his floor is very low as well. Bringing Fujinami to spring training is a low-risk, high-reward move that another team will make if Kansas City does not.