Four winters ago, much ballyhoo accompanied the signing of Kosuke Fukudome to a four-year, $48 million contract by the Chicago Cubs. At the time, Fukudome was widely considered to be the best hitter in Japan, though he had missed about half of the 2007 season with an elbow injury.
To say that Fukudome was a disappointment was an understatement. He got off to a great start in 2008 and was elected to the NL All-Star team. Although he was generally a patient hitter (.361 lifetime OBP in MLB), the power he had in Japan pretty much vanished, as did his hitting late in the season (.204/.312/.319 career after September 1). The Cubs swapped him to the Indians at the trading deadline last summer for a couple of miscellaneous minor leaguers.
Tuesday, the White Sox announced they had signed Fukudome to a major-league deal. From a White Sox press release:
The Chicago White Sox and free-agent outfielder Kosuke Fukudome have agreed to terms on a one-year, $1-million contract which includes a club option for the 2013 season. Under terms of the agreement, Fukudome will receive $500,000 in 2012, while the Sox hold a $3.5-millon option for 2013, including a $500,000 buyout.
"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 will be 35 in April and his best days, whatever those were, are clearly behind him. Hahn's statement indicates that Fukudome will be a fourth or fifth outfielder; his career line against RHP (.262/.368/.407) shows that he could, as Hahn says, be useful in certain matchups.
Before the 2011 season, Fukudome bought a Lake Shore Drive Chicago condo; thus this signing, for him, means he won't have to move.