Speaking of cashing in (awkward segue of the day!), Kosuke Fukudome is officially a Chicago Cub. Last night, it was announced that he signed a 4-year $48 million deal to patrol the outfield grass of Wrigley Field. Umpbump has already done a small analysis of Fukudome’s numbers in Japan but here’s a quick recap:
- Best offensive skill is plate discipline.
- Will whiff on his share of third strikes, but makes very solid contact when he does connect.
- Currently has the range to play centerfield, but at 31-years old, his skills will inevitably diminish in that department. May as well put him in one of the corner spots.
- A fair expectation is an OPS around .830 (.370 OBP, .460 SLG). Not a star, but a very solid MLB outfielder.
Considering the money that both Andruw Jones and Torii Hunter received this offseason, we shouldn’t be too surprised to hear that Fukudome is getting $12 million per year for four. I anticipated at least a $40 million deal and that was before the outfield market was set by the Anaheim-Hunter contract. So I can’t really fault the Cubs for going so high.
The positive here is that Fukudome gives the Cubs something they sorely needed – a guy who could get on base. With Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Alfonso Soriano in the lineup, Chicago has some pop (they just couldn’t keep all 3 on the field in 2007). But they often came to bat with the bases clear. The four guys who most often occupied the top two spots in the batting order (Soriano, Ryan Theriot, Jacque Jones, and Mike Fontenot) simply couldn’t fill these roles. In fact, none of them had an OBP higher than .337, which helps account for why the Cubs ranked in the bottom half in MLB in that category. As a team, they walked only 500 times in 2007, which was 26th out of the 30 clubs. If Sweet Lou pencils in Fukudome’s name in the #2 slot, the big bats ought to see some more RBI opportunities.
But here’s the negative from my perspective, which is one that I imagine most Cubs fans will disagree with. I’ve expressed support for Matt “Big Red” Murton in the past, primarily because he would help Chicago in the OBP department. While I think that Fukudome is a superior player, to me, these two guys are rather similar. Neither should be expected to hit 30 homeruns because, simply, it’s not who they are. But utilized well, they’ll more than make up for their lack of power. So the question becomes, is Kosuke Fukudome worth $48 million more than Murton? I’m not so sure about that.
I should give the Cubs some credit here for improving during an offseason that’s looking difficult for anyone to do so. If they can keep Lee, Ramirez and Soriano on the field, they certainly have a chance to repeat as division champs, and Fukudome will help.