3 free agent relievers the Phillies need to sign, and 1 to avoid at all costs

Who should the Phillies target in free agency this offseason to upgrade their bullpen, and who should they stay away from?
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Shintaro Fujinami

Once taken first overall by four different teams in the Japan Central League before being awarded to the Hanshin Tigers, Japanese phenom Shintaro Fujinami had all the makings of a future superstar. He possesses a blazing fastball that averages 98 mph while topping out at triple digits, mixed in with a bunch of off-speed changeups and cutters that he uses to strike out many hitters. With the makings of the next potential Daisuke Matsuzaka or Kazuhiro Sasaki, Fujinami has failed to reach his full potential in his MLB debut season in 2023.

In 34 games with the Oakland Athletics, he made seven starts in total and compiled a 5-8 record with a bloated 8.57 ERA and 1.66 WHIP, giving up 47 earned runs, with 30 walks and 51 strikeouts in just 49 1/3 innings pitched. Fujinami would end up being traded to the Baltimore Orioles at the trade deadline.

Thinking perhaps his overall performance was held back with a non-contending team like the Athletics, his tenure with the Orioles further proved that he has yet to harness his pitches to their maximum potential. In 30 games, he posted a 4.85 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, with 32 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings of work. Those numbers were definitely an improvement from what he had accomplished with the Athletics, but they haven’t been the dominating numbers one was expecting.

As a result, the Orioles will let Fujinami walk right into free agency, choosing to stay away from the inconsistent pitcher. If the AL East division leader is making sure to avoid re-signing Fujinami, the Phillies should do the same and steer clear of the former Japanese phenom. That way, they don't have to risk dealing with an inconsistent and unproven pitcher who could hinder their quest to get back to the postseason and World Series in 2024.

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