Hanshin Tigers closer Kyuji Fujikawa will exercise his free agency right in a bid to play in the major leagues next season, Kyodo News learned Tuesday.
Several baseball sources said that the 32-year-old Fujikawa, who met the conditions to become an overseas free agent this season, had previously expressed his desire to play in the majors and held off from saying whether he would return to the team.
The Tigers have already begun plans to bolster their pitching staff as they envision a team without their ace closer, who departed for the United States a day earlier to prepare to hold talks with major league clubs.
Fujikawa joined the Tigers in 1999 after he was drafted in the first round out of Kochi Shogyo High School. He matched a Japanese baseball record with 46 saves in 2007.
This season, Fujikawa posted 24 saves with a 1.32 ERA in 48 appearances for the Tigers. He has a career 42-25 record with 220 saves and a 1.77 ERA in 562 games.