Sunday, July 24, 2011
Sources: Teams eye Kosuke Fukudome
By Bruce Levine
With the trade deadline fast approaching, at least four teams are zeroing in on Chicago Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, according to major league sources.
Fukudome wasn't shocked to hear his name has been prominent in trade talks.
"It really doesn't bother me," he said through his interpreter. "As long as I'm a player and people are interested in me, I take it as a compliment."
The Cleveland Indians are one of several teams that have a focus on bringing in a veteran outfielder and the 34-year-old Fukudome may fit the bill.
According to a major league source, Fukudome has a limited no-trade clause in his deal which allows him to block six teams. It's unknown if the Indians are on that list.
Although Fukudome's batting average has dropped off in the last 30 days, the quality of his at-bats and his consistent outfield play has drawn the attention of contending teams.
"I don't think I'm any different as a player this year than I was from the last two," Fukudome said. "But if scouts think that I'm different, or better, that's definitely a good thing."
Fukudome will still be owed $4.3 million as of Aug. 1 and it is probable the Cubs would pay some of that money, if they got the right prospects in return. Fukudome will be paid $14.5 million this season in the fourth and final year of his $48 million contract.
In Japanese baseball, trading players is considered an unusual circumstance and is even actually a bit of an insult. However, after watching teammates like Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot and Ted Lilly get traded last year, Fukudome seems to understand that trades are just part of MLB's business culture.
"Personally, I don't think a trade is a negative thing," Fukudome said. "If another team wants me to play for them in their organization, that seems to be a positive. It is true though, that in Japan, a trade of a player is not necessarily viewed as a positive thing."
Before the Cubs signed Fukudome to his long-term deal, he was a home run hitter and a run producer, recording 31 home runs and 104 RBIs in Japan in 2006. However, in America, his top seasons have been 13 homers in 2010 and 58 RBIs in 2008.
What most teams are attracted to are Fukudome's .370 career on-base percentage and his consistently good outfield play.
Teammate Aramis Ramirez, who was traded to the Cubs at the deadline in 2003 but is no longer on the trade block this year himself, understands what might be going on in Fukudome's mind with the July 31 deadline approaching quickly.
"I think it can be a good thing to go to another team," Ramirez said. "At the same time, it's tough with the young kids and his wife here in Chicago. Trades are a part of the game and it's certainly a compliment when teams are looking at you on being able to make a difference for them."
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.