Every article written about the Cubs’ plans this offseason all mention the same thing: without moving part of Kosuke Fukudome’s salary, there won’t be much flexibility. Fukudome is owed $13.5 million next season, the final year of his four year deal, and given the Cubs “depth” in the outfield, moving Fukudome would free up playing time as well.
The problem, well there are many problems, is that Fukudome has a no-trade clause, a bloated salary, and isn’t much more than an average right fielder. He has a little power, is a decent fielder, and has good on-base skills. None of that is going to blow another team away though, certainly not when it costs $13.5 million.
The Cubs will have to eat at least half of Fukudome’s 2011 salary, if they can even convince him to waive his no-trade clause. Jim Hendry’s best skill as GM has been finding deals for players like this, even when it appears a market doesn’t exist, he’ll have to do it again.
So which teams even need a right fielder right now, and can afford to give about $7 million to one? I see a few teams that could use Fukudome next season.
Yes, the South Siders actually might be the ideal landing spot for Fukudome. Kenny Williams offered him more money three years ago than the Cubs, but still missed out on signing him. Given Carlos Quentin’s inability to field his position, and the fact that the White Sox could use a good OBP guy, Fukudome actually fits. He could hit second, rack up the walks, and provide good right field defense. Quentin could move to DH, keeping him healthy, and maximizing his value.
A giant stretch, but they do need a right fielder. Last season right field produced just a .767 OPS in Washington, Fukudome finished the year with a .809 OPS. They also reportedly had interest in Fukudome last spring, though a deal never got past the rumor stage.
If Strasburg was going to pitch this season, and the Nationals could talk themselves into contending, perhaps this would make a little sense. Considering 2011 will be (yet another) developmental season in Washington, there isn’t much of a point to bringing in a veteran outfielder with a big salary.
Then again, they did just let Ivan Rodriguez catch 111 games last season, so who knows.
This would be the ultimate fall back plan for Boston, considering they have plenty of money to throw at Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth. Perhaps if they are outbid for the two highly thought of free agents, they will re-enter the trade market. At the trade deadline last season, Boston was rumored to be interested in Fukudome, perhaps that interest still exists.
The Red Sox love depth, and they stretched its limit last year. JD Drew and Mike Cameron are both very prone to needing days off. Fukudome can play both their positions, like I said, decent backup plan.
The Cardinals felt like Jon Jay was good enough to play right field everyday, and he showed that he maybe isn’t quite ready for that. If the Cubs picked up a majority of the bill, the Cardinals could use the outfield help. It would move Jay back into the super-sub role, one that would help protect him from over-exposure.
It would also give the Cardinals a on-base machine in front of Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. 2011 has an “all in” feel to it in St. Louis, so they might be willing to take a gamble Fukudome.
Seattle could be a good cultural fit, but Ichiro already plays right field there. The Angels are looking for an outfielder, but have their eyes set much higher.
The problem, again, is that what Fukudome brings to a team can be found much cheaper on the free agent market. Most likely, Hendry will need to bring back another large contract in any trade, which completely defeats the purpose of moving Fukudome.
The Cubs want to push this youth movement though, which means they need to make room for Tyler Colvin to play, and have room for Brett Jackson when he comes up as well. If that means trading Fukudome for another overpaid starting pitcher, then so be it.