The trade deadline is in a few weeks, but the Baltimore Orioles didn't wait to make a move. Jon Heyman was first with the news that the Orioles have acquired Shintaro Fujinami from the Oakland Athletics.
Fujinami will go to the Orioles bullpen as they attempt to add help to a group that has showed its flaws in recent weeks. The Orioles number 30 prospect, Easton Lucas, is going to the Athletics in return for Fujinami. Josh Lester was DFA'd to make room on the 40 man roster for Fujinami.
Baltimore Orioles acquire pitcher Shintaro Fujinami from Athletics in attempt to bolster bullpen
On the season, Fujinami has a 8.57 ERA, 4.94 FIP, and 1.662 WHIP, averaging 5.5 walks per nine and 9.3 strikeouts per nine over seven starts and 34 total appearances, throwing 49 1/3 innings. He's making $3.25 million this season and will be a free agent at the end of the year.
Fujinami's poor stats are the result of starting the season in the Oakland rotation. He had a 14.40 ERA after four starts, forcing the A's to put him in the bullpen. He's gotten better month by month. He had a 13.00 ERA at the end of April, 10.50 ERA in May, a sharp drop to 3.97 in June, and has a 2.25 ERA so far in July.
Since June 1, Fujinami has a 3.26 ERA over 19 1/3 innings and 17 appearances, striking out 20 hitters. He's held opposing hitters to a .699 OPS since the start of June and has allowed just two home runs.
Fujinami's velocity has also increased rapidly over the course of the season. His four-seam fastball is his best pitch, averaging 98 on the radar gun. He works in his splitter and cutter alongside the fastball as his three primary pitches, while also throwing a breaking ball every now and then.
With the Orioles in need of pitching help, particularly in the bullpen, the move for Fujinami is the first made in the quest for pitching. It likely won't be the last either. If Fujinami pans out, he can join Danny Coulombe and Mike Baumann as the key middle relievers, bridging the gap to Yennier Cano and Félix Bautista in the back end of the bullpen.
The addition of Fujinami is also a high upside play by the Orioles, who have a great track record of player development in recent years. It worked with Austin Voth among others last year, plus Cano, Coulombe, and Baumann are having big years in 2023. If the Orioles can work their magic with Fujinami, it's a great addition to a bullpen that needs help.