TOKYO – Pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa of the Hanshin Tigers was one of four professional baseball players in Japan who became unrestricted free agents Wednesday in hopes of moving to Major League Baseball.
The other players were Seibu Lions shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, Nippon Ham Fighters infielder Kensuke Tanaka and Orix Buffaloes catcher Takeshi Hidaka.
Fujikawa, a 32-year-old right-handed closer, has 220 saves over 12 seasons with the Tigers. He played for two-time champion Japan at the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic and the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The New York Yankees won the negotiating rights for Nakajima under the posting system after the 2011 season, but failed to reach an agreement and he returned to Seibu for the 2012 season.
Nakajima, a seven-time Pacific League All-Star, has a .302 batting average with 149 home runs, 664 RBIs and 134 stolen bases over 11 seasons with Seibu.
Tanaka has a.286 average over 13 seasons with the Fighters, while Hidaka hit.236 in 15 seasons with Orix.