July 28, 2011
The Chicago Cubs may not engage in the full-blown fire sale that the franchise deserves, but Jim Hendry gathered some kindling on Thursday morning.
According to multiple outlets, outfielder Kosuke Fukudome(notes) is headed toward the Cleveland Indians in an effort to help win the AL Central. The 34-year-old native of Japan is in the last year of a four-year deal with Chicago. He's owed $4.7 million for the rest of 2011 and when it comes to the amount that the Cubs will pay, ESPN's Buster Olney reports that it's "more than half."
It's not an earth-rattling deal for either team, but it does make sense. The Cubs will reportedly receive two prospects and get some sort of a return for a player who's a free agent at the end of the season. The Indians, meanwhile, get cheap outfield help as Grady Sizemore(notes) and Shin-Soo Choo(notes) remain on the disabled list.
If you're an Indians fan, you can be thankful that the club did not mortgage the future by going after one of the market's top outfield options like B.J. Upton(notes) or Hunter Pence(notes). It's also worth pointing out that the trade deadline isn't until Sunday, so there's plenty of more time for GM Chris Antonetti to improve the team in a bid to catch the Detroit Tigers and hold off the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins.
Depending on which stats you choose to favor, Indians fans can tint this trade with optimism. Though he was wildly overpaid as the result of a bidding war before the 2008 season, Fukudome has provided some decent production for the Cubs. He has a .369 OBP since coming to play in the United States and has the ability to take a walk. He's also shown the ability to be good for a concentrated period of time, going a career .345/.454/.526 for one specific month.
Unfortunately, that month is April. Fukudome is a career .198/.327/.307 for the month of September, numbers that would paint this deal a little differently. MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince also points out that Fukudome is .217/.308/.286 over 53 interleague games. Not exactly convincing stats for a guy headed to the American League.
As for the Cubs, the trade marks the end of an era. Fukudome's signing was the franchise's first foray into signing Japanese players. Though he was an above-average player, the salary and hoopla that met his arrival in Wrigleyville never met his true talent level. Fukudome appeared on a Sports Illustrated cover in his first month as a Cub and also unfortunately inspired the sale of merchandise with crude racial stereotypes outside the park. The best part of his tenure may have come when he finally admitted that he had "no idea it had been 100 years" since the last Cubs title when he signed with the team.
Whether or not this marks the start of a busy weekend for Cubs GM Jim Hendry remains to be seen. He said earlier this week that he thinks the team could still be competitive in 2012 and wasn't in the position to sell the team off. But that, of course, could be a straight-up ploy designed to gain more leverage. Hendry still has plenty of pieces that could be dealt, though Carlos Pena is probably the only one that can be easily flipped with his expiring contract. The rest — the Alfonso Sorianos, Carlos Zambranos and Aramis Ramirezes — are going to take a lot more work whether its due to giant contracts (Soriano, Zambrano) or a stubborn insistence to wield a no-trade clause (Ramirez).