Kosuke Fukudome was back in the Cubs lineup today, and the team is hoping (beyond hope) that he can put together another July surge. Kosuke sports a career .808 OPS (.350 OBP) in July, which contrasts sharply with his scary bad .614 OPS (.314 OBP) in June.â†µ
As the team continues to struggle, languishing 11 games under. 500 as of this writing (soon to be 12), many fans are screaming for trades, and Fukudome would seem a prime candidate with Tyler Colvin continuing to get big hits. But any trade suggestion involving Kosuke is usually greeted with a chorus of, “He makes too much money! No one is going to take that contract!”â†µ
And, indeed, that’s probably true. Fukudome has presumably been paid about half of the $13 million he’s owed this year. And he’ll be due another $13.5 million next season. What MLB team is going to pick up any percentage of that for an inconsistent hitting outfielder? Granted, Kosuke is a solid defensive right fielder, can play centerfield in a pinch and, generally, has good OBP. But, given the economy and Fukudome’s strikeout rate, again, who’s going to pay?â†µ
Maybe the Chunichi Dragons? Or the Hanshin Tigers? Or some other Japanese team? Last year, the Mariners made news when its 33-year-old Japanese catcher Kenji Johjima walked away from a $16 million contract to return to Japan. Johjima wound up snagging a contract worth about $21 million with the aforementioned Hanshin Tigers.â†µ
I wonder whether history could repeat itself with Kosuke. Maybe the Cubs let him play out the rest of 2010 and work out a deal with a Japanese team during the off-season. Fukudome was, after all, a huge star in Japan and perhaps his former team or another would welcome him back. Maybe Tyler Colvin and Marlon Byrd finish the season with good enough numbers to convince Kosuke that he’s destined to finish out his Cubs career as a bored fourth/fifth outfielder sitting on the bench most of the season.â†µ
Honestly, I don’t know the legal ramifications of such a deal. Could the Cubs release Fukudome and then arrange for the Japanese corporation that owns his new team to pay a portion of the monies owed? And would Kosuke suffer the blow to his ego – and honor – by consenting to such a deal? Again, I just don’t know.â†µ
But with the team foundering and the huge amounts being paid to Carlos Zambrano, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Fukudome looking more garish than ever, it’s time for some creative thinking. Maybe this is it.