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Trading Places: Fukudome Traded to the Indians
Nate Springfield | Thursday July 28th, 2011
Kosuke Fukudome will play right field for the Indians. (Icon SMI)
Kosuke Fukudome will play right field for the Indians. (Icon SMI)
The July trade deadline is just days away, and the latest move will send outfielder Kosuke Fukudome and cash from the Chicago Cubs to the Cleveland Indians for Triple-A right handed pitcher Carlton Smith and Single-A outfielder Abner Abreu.

The now 34-year old Fukudome signed a four-year contract worth $48 million with the Cubs in 2008.  This was his first Major League Baseball contract for Kosuke, previously playing professionally in Japan's Nippons Professional Baseball League from 1999 to 2007.  He is still owed close to $4.7 million of the contract, which also included a no-trade clause.  The Cubs will be picking up $3.9 million of Fukudome's remaining contract and compensating him for waiving his no-trade clause.

Since arriving in America for the 2008 season, Fukudome hasn't been the super-star that many fans hoped he would be.  Even though his career triple-slash line of .262/.369/.403 makes him look like a league average outfielder at the plate, his consistently strong on-base percentage and knack for seeing a high number of pitches per-at-bat (his 4.34 pitches per-at-bat this season leads the National League) makes him an asset to have in the lineup.  This season, he has been the primary leadoff man for Cubs manager Mike Quade against right handed pitching, and is currently hitting .273 with three home runs, 33 runs scored, and 13 RBI. 

Fukudome will add depth to the Cleveland outfield, being able to adequately play all three outfield positions, but being better suited as a corner outfielder.  For the immediate future, he will probably fill in for the injured Shin-Soo Choo in right field and hit towards the bottom of the order now that manager Manny Acta likes the top of the order combo of Ezequiel Carrera and Michael Brantley for the time being. 

The Cubs did very well in their return for Fukudome, even though they are paying the majority of the balance on his contract.  If the move had not been made, Fukudome did not project to be a Type-A or Type-B free agent, meaning the team would not have been compensated if he had signed with another major league team as a free agent this offseason.  Cubs beat writer Carrie Muskat tweeted that outfielder Tyler Colvin will be recalled from Triple-A Iowa to fill Fukudome's roster spot, but do not expect him to take over as the everyday right fielder in Chicago.  Colvin will probably split time with Tony Campana against right handed starters and expect Jeff Baker to see more time in the outfield against left handed pitching.  The two minor league players the Cubs received, Carlton Smith and Abner Abreu, will add organizational depth, but should not be a factor this season at the major league level.

From a fantasy baseball perspective, this trade is probably only of interest to fantasy players that play in a league specific format.  Fukudome should see consistent at-bats for Cleveland, and will not hurt owners in any category, but at the same time does not have much upside.  Tyler Colvin proved last year that he can hit home runs at the major league level, but has struggled at the plate this year in both Chicago and at Triple-A.  It is worth keeping an eye on his production and playing time, but not worthy of an immediate addition.
Nate SpringfieldNate Springfield joined the Baseball Press crew for the 2010 season and hosts the site's podcast. His love for the game has grown thanks to fantasy baseball, with a specialty in NL-only auction leagues. You can contact him at nate@baseballpress.com or follow him on Twitter @NateSpringfield.