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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?
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.