The White Sox wanted Kosuke Fukudome when the Japanese outfielder was supposed to be the next big thing.
Fukudome never lived up to the hype that came with the four-year, 48 million contract he signed before the 2008 season. He made the All-Star Game and the cover of Sports Illustrated, but didnt develop into the player the Cubs envisioned.
That miscalculation was readjusted on Tuesday, when the White Sox announced they had signed Fukudome to a one-year, 1 million deal. He will earn 500,000 this season, while the 3.5 million club option for 2013 includes a 500,000 buyout.
This time the White Sox arent looking for a game-changer, and at this price wont come to regret the decision.
Theyre getting low-cost insurance against Dayan Viciedo and Alex Rios underperforming. Manager Robin Ventura will be getting a left-handed bat to play matchups, a plus defender in center and right field and a professional who wont make waves in the clubhouse.
Its a little different scenario four years ago than it is today, obviously, assistant general manager Rick Hahn said. We felt we were a little unbalanced heading into the season and Kosuke has a track record of performing well against right-handed pitchers and giving you a quality at-bat.
We have another alternative to mix into the lineup on certain days (who) can potentially spell Viciedo or Rios if either of them struggle or need a breather. (Hes) a guy who can get on base and play some quality defense for us.
Fukudome, who will turn 35 in April, seemed to understand much more than he let on, and he was still able to show a sly sense of humor, even through an interpreter. When the Cubs traded Fukudome to the Indians last summer, he was asked what he knew about Cleveland: I know there is a lake.
The Cubs still had to kick in almost 4 million and received two marginal prospects, saving just under 1 million in the deal. By then, the huge press corps that had been following Fukudome dwindled to one traveling beat writer.
But its not a surprise that Fukudome wants to stay in this city, even in a diminished role. His family was said to enjoy living in Chicago and having access to its strong Japanese community. He had also purchased a condo overlooking Lake Shore Drive.
The streaky Fukudome never hit more than 13 homers or drove in more than 58 runs in a single season with the Cubs. After last years trade, he hit .249 in 59 games with the Indians. He has a career .361 on-base percentage.
Fukudome represented his country at the Olympics (1996, 2004) and the World Baseball Classic (2006, 2009), and the Cubs certainly werent alone in going hard after the Japanese star.
It cannot be a direct comparison, because they have been described as different types of outfielders, but it was a coincidence that this deal came together roughly 24 hours after Yoenis Cespedes reportedly agreed to a four-year, 36 million deal with the Oakland As.
Its probably worth remembering that the Cuban defector will face some of the same challenges and adjustments that Fukudome experienced at the major-league level. That could have happened in a White Sox uniform, if those negotiations had gone another way.
We were in the mix until the end, Hahn recalled. We were in fairly consistent contact with him right up until the time he made the decision, which obviously didnt go our way. We were aggressive, (but) he decided to go with the opportunity on the North Side. It happens from time to time.