If you look at enough projections, you may find reasons to be optimistic. That’s why I’m going through the Web and the Cubs’ roster to find projections for each player. Today: Kosuke Fukudome.
Kosuke Fukudome’s been steady in his three seasons with the Cubs. And preseason projections expect more of the same in 2011. (Check out a small sample of projections, here. And a more extensive list, here).
Steadiness hasn’t translated into Fukudome becoming an impact player for the Cubs. Fukudome’s slash lines are incredibly consistent. His batting average, slugging percentage or on-base percentage never go beyond 16% of itself from year to year; but only one of them (OBP) would make you say, “Yeah, he’s worth four years and $48 million.”
The money is a sunk cost; the Cubs are not getting anything of tremendous value in a trade. The loudest rumor this winter was a Fukudome for Aaron Rowand swap that would have just delayed the joy of being rid of an a non-impact outfielder making over $10 million. Plus, if the Cubs are in contention, a guy who gets on base 35% of the time and is a decent right fielder — an awful center fielder, though — would be worth playing while waiting for the deal to come to an end.
But, it’d be a surprise to see Fukudome with the team in August, because it’d be a surprise if the Cubs were in contention at that point. And if they’re not in contention, then Tyler Colvin’s playing everyday.
Colvin could play everyday right now, even while the Cubs are tied for first in the NL Central. Colvin’s 1.7 WAR was slightly better than Fukudome’s 1.5 WAR last season; however, Colvin has the benefit of not being 34-years-old and is, at least in theory, on the upswing of his career.
If nothing else, Colving should get all of the starts against left-handers. Despite being left-handed himself, Colvin’s wOBA against lefties (.352) was better than it was against right-handers (.347). Neither of those numbers are that impressive, but .352 beats Fukudome’s career .312 wOBA against left-handers.
Still, the projections are nice to Fukudome: the things he has done well in his career, he will continue to do well; the areas where he has struggled, he will continue to struggle. But, there’s no way Fukudome puts up those kinds of numbers as long as he is with the Cubs. The three projections I looked at have Fukudome getting 475, 481 and 568 plate appearances. Last season, he had 429; unless Colvin spends significant time on the DL, Fukudome won’t have more appearances than he did in 2010.
At least not with the Cubs.
He may eventually be somewhere else. Since last June 15, the headline on Fukudome’s FanGraphs page has been “According to major league sources, the Cubs have made Fukudome available via a trade, FOX Sports reports.” No one’s been interested.
By July, though, Fukudome’s contract won’t matter to a contender as much as the things that Fukudome can (and is projected to) do well.
Erick Ward is a contributor for ChiCitySports.com. You can follow Erick on Twitter @ErickRWard.