One of the more intriguing signings made this winter won't break the back pages of any newspapers—at least not on this side of the Pacific.
The San Francisco Giants have signed former Yomiuri Giants closer Marc Kroon, as reported by Tom Krasovic of AOL FanHouse. Kroon can make up to $2.5 million if all performance bonuses are met.
Kroon—nicknamed "The Phoenix" by his agent—has spent the last six years in the Japanese major league, both with the Yokohama BayStars and the aforementioned Yomiuri Giants.
First drafted in the second round of the MLB draft by the New York Mets, Kroon was quick to show off his tremendous fastball—and considerable command issues. After struggling somewhat over two seasons of rookie ball, Kroon was shipped to the San Diego Padres, where he made enough progress to be named 1995's 69th best prospect by Baseball America.
Needless to say, Kroon did not capitalize. Even after moving to the bullpen in AAA, the 6'2" righty continued to struggle with an ERA around four and an abysmal 11-inning cup of coffee with the Friars in 1997.
After his trying campaign, Kroon elected for minor league free agency, triggering a set of unfruitful ventures in the Mariners, Dodgers, Angels and Rockies organizations, culminating with the sale of his rights to the Yokohama BayStars in 2004.
While overseas, Kroon finally began to shine. The BayStars immediately made Kroon their closer, and he came through, racking up 61 strikeouts in just over 53 innings with a 2.70 earned run average. Most of his success can be attributed to improved control—his BB/9 dropped from an abysmal 5.9 in AAA to a much more manageable 3.2 in NPB.
Kroon's dominance over the next five seasons made him very popular—but what made headlines was his staggering velocity. In his first season, Kroon set the record for the fastest pitch ever thrown at 100 MPH, something which he did a handful of times afterward, and he broke his own record in 2008 with a slightly more blistering 101 MPH.
In all, Kroon tallied 177 saves, and as of last week he was still hoping to pitch in Japan, according to his Twitter account.
Kroon, who turns 38 in April, hopes to pitch in front of his children and would presumably be a middle-innings option for the Giants, behind options like Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla.