Baseball Toaster Cub Town
Fukudome Thoughts
2007-12-11 23:10
by Phil Bencomo

For over a week now, Cubs blogs have been buzzing, stirred into a mild frenzy by the Fukudome updates trickling out of Japan. He's coming, then he's not sure, then he'll make a decision soon, and then he really is coming -- but to which team?

It ended tonight, and the Cubs have a new right fielder.

Most of the projections I've seen agree on a few points: He won't be an incredible player, but will be, at very least, above average. His defensive skills are well-regarded, and though his power will wane, Fukudome will get on base at a good clip.

I've also seen -- in comments sections more than posts themselves -- much angst about the fate of Matt Murton, regarded by many as a slower, right-handed version of Fukudome. The argument being made is that Murton can provide nearly the same production -- itself an iffy proposition; do we really know how either one will perform? -- at a fraction of the cost.

But I have no problem with the signing. Think back to your childhood for a moment: You have two, nearly identical trading cards, each filling the same role in almost the same manner. What do you do with them? Clearly, you trade one to a pal for something you don't have; you don't really need two of the same. And so Matt Murton hits the trading block. His name has already come up in talks with the Orioles involving Miguel Tejada, Brian Roberts and Erik Bedard. Had Fukudome not signed with the Cubs, the likelihood of a trade involving Murton would have declined mightily -- the Cubs would have needed him.

But luckily, such is not the case. Murton, like a tooth in the jaw of a shark, can be lost without fear -- the Cubs have another, at least as sharp and right behind, ready to replace it.

Simply put, trading Murton for Roberts, for instance, without Fukudome signed pales in comparison to the same scenario with Fukudome. The sum of Fukudome and whomever Murton's trade package garners is greater than the return from a Murton trade alone. Fukudome is key. If the Cubs had to overspend a bit, I care not; the signing makes possible moves to further improve the team.

2007-12-12 08:32:09
1.   Todd S
This signing is so good, there's almost nothing the Cubs can do now to have an unsuccessful off-season. Love it.
2007-12-12 11:18:35
2.   hernan
Following are key stats of Akinori Iwamura's and Hideki Matsui's final - and best - seasons in Japan, and their first seasons in MLB.

(first-year MLB totals in parenthesis)

AB - 546 (491)
AVG - .311 (.285)
HR - 32 (7)
RBI - 77 (34)
2B - 27 (21)
OBP - .389 (.359)
SLG - .544 (.411)
OPS - .933 (.770)
BB-K - 70-128 (58-114)

AB - 500 (623)
AVG - .334 (.287)
HR - 50 (16)
RBI - 107 (106)
2B - 27 (42)
OBP - .463 (.353)
SLG - .692 (.435)
OPS - 1.155 (.788)
BB-K - 114-104 (63-86)

Fukudome's last full season (2006) in Japan:
AB - 496
AVG - .351
HR - 31
RBI - 104
2B - 47
OBP - .438
SLG - .653
OPS - 1.091
BB-K - 76-94

Needless to say, I do not like this signing. He does not look like a bad player, supposedly plays greate defense, I'll grant you that. But 48 million for 4 years??? He is just not a middle-of-the-order guy. At best he is a #2 hitter with no speed, above-average on-base skills, doubles guy... think Mark Grace playing RF, having a bad year.

Matsui got slightly better the next few seasons, but he was CLEARLY a much, much, much better player in Japan than Fukudome.

Anyway, sorry for not joining the party, I just look at the numbers and it doesn't seem right. I can imagine the tough Wrigley crowd getting on him, and Jacque Jones laughing his ass off watching on T.V.

2007-12-12 11:50:34
3.   Tom
First, let me say that I really like Matt Murton. That being said, his OPS+ for the last two years has been right at 100, he hits right handed, isn't fast, and isn't a plus defender.

And, the Dome is going to be a great marketing opportunity for the Cubs internationally. Put simply, having a high-profile Japanese player on your team is just plain cool.

2007-12-16 19:38:55
4.   rynox
Instead of comparing him to other Japanese players, I hope he turns out to be more of a David DeJesus. That would be dreamy.

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