The Chicago White Sox and 34-year-old free-agent outfielder Kosuke Fukudome have agreed to terms on a one-year $1 million contract that includes $500,000 in base salary for 2012 and a $3.5 million 2013 club option with a $500,000 buyout. The former Japanese league star disappointed in the MLB after signing a four-year $48 million contract with the Chicago Cubs in 2007, but getting a backup outfielder and left-handed bat at a discount price is a low-risk move for the White Sox at this point. Here is what White Sox vice president/assistant general manager had to say about the signing in the official press release:
"Kosuke adds to our outfield depth and gives Robin another left-handed bat to mix into the lineup based on matchups," said Rick Hahn, White Sox vice president/assistant general manager. "He can play center field and right and provides flexibility to our roster."
...Fukudome played nine seasons with Chunichi of the Japanese Central League from 1999-2007. He was named the CL Most Valuable Player in 2006 after hitting .351 (174-496) with 31 home runs and 104 RBI. Fukudome represented Japan at the 1996 and 2004 Summer Olympic Games and the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic.
GM Kenny Williams was very competitive in the bidding for Fukudome's services back in 2007, and offered at least as much as the Cubs did, but now the White Sox get to give the veteran outfield a shot at making an impact for far less money. Even though the deal is a cheap move that has no potential to hurt the team long-term, the staff at South Side Sox isn't exactly enamored with the move at this point:
While it's pretty hard to get upset about paying $1MM for a backup outfielder, I'm not entirely sure I get Fukudome's appeal. He's an average bat (100 OPS+ for career) with his main strength being his ability to get on base (.361 career OBP), but UZR and the eye test rate him as a poor fielder. I don't expect him to see any time in center since Alex Rios, Alejandro De Aza, and Brent Lillibridge can all play the position better than Kosuke. He's decent insurance for if one of the starters gets hurt though. I'm just hoping our fans don't treat this signing the way Cubs fans did.