Cubs win Fukudome sweepstakes
Japanese outfielder agrees to four-year, $48 million deal
CHICAGO -- It wasn't just money that motivated Kosuke Fukudome to come to the U.S. Major Leagues. The highly touted outfielder had a wish list of his own and found the right match in the Chicago Cubs.
Fukudome and the Cubs agreed to terms on a four-year, $48 million contract through the 2011 season, pending his passing of a physical. The left-handed-hitting outfielder was expected in Chicago next week to undergo the exam.
"He's exactly what we needed for our ballclub moving forward," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "He's been our target acquisition from Day 1."
Hendry said the Cubs patiently waited for Fukudome, 30, to make a decision as to whether he would come to the U.S. and never offered any money or tried to make a deal for another right fielder this offseason.
"This was Option 1, 2 and 3 as far as we were concerned," Hendry said.
The Cubs won out over several other clubs who were bidding for Fukudome, including the crosstown White Sox.
"Economics, at the end of the day, did not necessarily play a role in this," Fukudome's agent Joe Urbon said. "It's unfair to characterize the other Chicago team [the White Sox] as not putting its best foot forward, which they did, as did the San Diego Padres, as did a few other clubs.
"Economics played a big role, but the position the player was going to play played a big role, the ability to win played a big role, the Japanese community played a big role," Urbon said. "There were all these elements that came into play that pointed to the Chicago Cubs as the best choice for the player."
A native of Kagoshima, Japan, Kosuke Fukudome (pronounced "KOH-skay foo-koo-DOUGH-may") has spent his entire nine-year pro career with the Chunichi Dragons, where he batted .305 with a .397 on-base percentage and a .543 slugging
|"This guy wants to play here. He wants the action. He's looking forward to it."|
|-- Cubs GM Jim Hendry, on Kosuke Fukudome|
"We think we have the whole package," Hendry said. "We feel we have a high-average player, a high-on-base-percentage player. He certainly has enough power, and he can hit the ball out of the ballpark. He's a Gold Glove-caliber defender with a tremendous arm in right field, and he can steal bases. All the things we felt or we hear about on a regular basis that we might have lacked -- on-base percentage, more speed, better defense in the outfield -- he fits the bill for all of us. We're not worried about the transition.
"This guy wants to play here. He wants the action. He's looking forward to it. He played in the World [Baseball] Classic and he played in the Olympics with a strong air of confidence. He knows how good a player he is and he demonstrates it in the way he plays."
Fukudome was named the Central League Most Valuable Player in 2006 when he batted .351 with 31 home runs and a career-high 104 RBI. The left-handed hitting outfielder was limited to 81 games last season because of an injury to his right elbow, and he underwent surgery to remove bone fragments in that arm. Still, he hit .294 with 22 doubles and 13 home runs and had a .520 slugging percentage and a .443 on-base percentage.
Hendry said the Cubs medical staff has spoken to Dr. Lewis Yocum, who did the procedure, and they expected Fukudome to be ready to go at the start of Spring Training.
"He's a very talented young man, really good player," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said of Fukudome during last week's Winter Meetings. "He would make a fine addition on many Major League teams, including ours. If he decides to come here, we would really welcome his services."
Urbon said Fukudome began his decision-making process months ago, and that he was in contact with other Japanese players who have played in the U.S. Piniella, who managed Ichiro Suzuki in Seattle, received high marks.
"The comfort level Japanese players have had and have with Lou certainly played a role in Kosuke's decision," Urbon said. "That was in the plus column for the Cubs."
Fukudome actually began his career as a shortstop, but eventually moved to the outfield. He will fill the Cubs' vacancy in right field and likely bat fourth or fifth to break up a lineup heavy with right-handed hitters, including Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.