“Worst ever” and a cheap shot? A Japanese Fireballer trade card?

Could Oakland Athletics Japanese pitcher Shintaro Fujinami draw interest on the trade market?

Fujinami realized his major league dream this year when he joined Oakland on a one-year, $3.25 million contract, but he shocked himself and many who watched him by going 4-0 with a 14.40 ERA in his first four starts. Even with a 160 mph fastball, he struggled with his control and never seemed to settle down 꽁머니.

Eventually moved to the bullpen after five games, Fujinami has shown a different side as of late. He pitched a perfect ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers on May 5, striking out three and walking none before allowing a run in the top of the 10th inning to give his team a 1-0 victory and his fifth win in seven starts. It was his second straight save, following a no-decision against the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 2.

Fujinami, who touched 102.1 mph on June 6, has shown significant improvement in his ability to strike out batters, a strength of the Fireballers, as he has a 3.45 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 15⅔ innings over his last 15 games. “Fujinami has been using his fastball more and his splitter and slider less since June 5,” said data analyst Brendan Stefek.

“Fujinami is a trade piece,” said Carl Booscheck of A’s Unleashed, an Oakland organization website. With the major league trade deadline next month on Feb. 2, Oakland, which is 25-63 with a .284 winning percentage after five games and is last in the majors in winning percentage among the 30 teams in the majors, could send him, a strong bullpen arm, to a higher-ranked team in exchange for prospects.

Fujinami’s fifth-best payroll in the small-market A’s organization would also ease Oakland’s payroll burden. A fireballer mode that doesn’t have to worry about pitches as much as it has in recent years could make teams in the division race salivate. 3.25 million is not a lot of money for a big-market club. Fujinami’s recent four-game shutout streak has put him in a different position in about two months.

He’s gone from being labeled “one of the worst pitchers in major league history” and “a huge signing bust” by Japanese sports publication Ronspo on June 6, to being on the verge of being released, to being seen as a trade bargain. He’s expensive for his team, but cheap for teams looking to bolster their rotation. Keep an eye on the moves surrounding Fujinami through the trade deadline.”

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