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Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Matsuzaka to Cubs? Don't count on it

By Gordon Edes

BOSTON -- Daisuke Matsuzaka’s name did not come up during the Chicago Cubs’ recent organizational meetings, according to a baseball source. That doesn’t preclude the possibility the Cubs and Red Sox had a conversation about him as part of a proposed deal for Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, as the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers reported Wednesday.

But it’s a deal that doesn’t make much sense. It’s understandable that the Cubs would seek to dump a bad contract in Fukudome, who is due to be paid $13.5 million in 2011. But Matsuzaka has two years left on his deal, at $10 million per, so if the Cubs are looking to free up some money for another move, like signing free agent Adam Dunn, a Fukudome-Matsuzaka swap has limited benefit.

Cubs GM Jim Hendry succeeded in dumping a bad contract last winter when he dealt the radioactive Milton Bradley to Seattle for pitcher Carlos Silva. The deal looked brilliant when Silva went 9-3 with a 3.45 ERA in the season’s first half, but Silva was awful in the second half (1-3, 11.12) before going on the disabled list with an irregular heart rate. The Cubs are now stuck with his $11.5 million salary in 2011 and a $2 million buyout if they don’t exercise a mutual option in 2012.

From the Sox perspective, the deal makes even less sense. Fukudome would represent an expensive platoon player at best, with a mediocre 1.5 WAR (wins above replacement) and a sub-par -6.4 UZR150 rating defensively. The four outfielders already on the Sox roster -- J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron and Ryan Kalish -- are all superior, and the Sox have made little secret of their interest in free agents Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford.

There is also this: At the end of the season, GM Theo Epstein did not sound like a man in a hurry to dump Matsuzaka.

"There were some moments of brilliance, and there was some frustration along the way too,’’ Epstein said. “I think the positive is from coming off of last year when he wasn’t able to maintain health and consistently take the ball, he did that this year after coming back from the injury in spring training.

"To look where we were with him in March, and where we are now, I think we feel a lot better about it now. Along the way there’s been consistent velocity that we hadn’t seen the last couple of years, and some improvement in the secondary stuff, even as recently as his last couple of starts, so again more positive signs to take into the winter."

Remember, too, that Matsuzaka has no-trade protection in his contract. That won’t keep the Sox from listening -- especially if Seattle has interest -- but the Cubs-Fukudome scenario doesn’t pass the smell test. Hendry could well have floated it -- last winter, he asked the Sox if they had any interest in Bradley -- as part of doing due diligence, but it has little likelihood of going any further.