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updated: 2/14/2012 9:27 PM

White Sox sign Fukudome to one-year deal

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  • Outfield Kosuke Fukudome split the 2011 season between the Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, batting a combined .262 with 8 home runs and 35 RBI. He signed a one-year deal with the White Sox on Tuesday.

      Outfield Kosuke Fukudome split the 2011 season between the Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, batting a combined .262 with 8 home runs and 35 RBI. He signed a one-year deal with the White Sox on Tuesday.
    Associated Press

  • A lot was expected of Kosuke Fukudome when the Japanese all-star signed a four-year, $48 million deal with the Cubs in 2008. The Cubs traded Fukudome last July to Cleveland, but he's coming back to Chicago to play for the White Sox this season.

      A lot was expected of Kosuke Fukudome when the Japanese all-star signed a four-year, $48 million deal with the Cubs in 2008. The Cubs traded Fukudome last July to Cleveland, but he's coming back to Chicago to play for the White Sox this season.
    Associated Press

  • Video: Fukudome home run video

  • Video: Fukudome home run video

 
 

Before the 2008 season the White Sox had money to spend, and they offered Japanese sensation Kosuke Fukudome a four-year, $50 million contract.

Fukudome was tempted, but he signed with the Cubs for $48 million over four years for two reasons.

First, he wanted to play right field. Jermaine Dye was entrenched at the position and the Sox wanted Fukudome to play center.

Second, Fukudome was intrigued by the lengthy World Series drought on the North Side and thought he could help the Cubs finally grab the elusive ring.

"We were in the mix until the end," White Sox assistant general manager Rick Hahn said Tuesday. "We were aggressive, but he decided to go with the opportunity on the North Side over ours. It happens from time to time."

Four years later, times have certainly changed.

The White Sox are "tapped out" and have been steadily trimming payroll since late July.

They managed to come up with a little money to sign Fukudome on Tuesday, but it is a relative pittance.

After four subpar seasons with the Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, Fukudome agreed to a one-year, $500,000 contract with the Sox. The 34-year-old outfielder also has a $3.5 million option for 2013, but the White Sox hold a $500,000 buyout.

Barring an unexpected change in his game, the Sox get Fukudome for one year at $1 million.

"It's a little different scenario four years ago than it is today, obviously," Hahn said. "At this point, we're looking for him to add to our outfield depth and provide us with another left-handed bat for (manager) Robin (Ventura) to mix in based on matchups.

"We have a fair amount of quality (right-handed starters) in our division this year, and we felt we were a little bit unbalanced going into the season. Kosuke obviously has a track record of performing well against right-handed pitchers, so we have another alternative to mix into the lineup on certain days."

Fukudome is likely to give new right fielder Dayan Viciedo -- a right-handed-hitter -- days off against tough right-handed starters such as Detroit's Justin Verlander and Cleveland's Justin Masterson.

He also can spell Alex Rios in center field, assuming Rios doesn't switch positions with starting left fielder Alejandro De Aza.

In 2006, Fukudome batted .351 with 31 home runs and 104 RBI for the Chunichi Dragons, winning Japanese Central League MVP honors. Fukudome was sidelined for much of the '07 season with an elbow injury before jumping to the Cubs, and he never made an impact.

In four seasons with the Cubs and the Indians, Fukudome batted .260 with 110 doubles, 42 home runs, 191 RBI, 262 runs scored and 299 walks in 572 games.

On July 28 of last season, Fukudome was traded to Cleveland. He batted .249 with 5 home runs and 22 RBI in 59 games for the Indians.

While his power numbers never translated from Japan to the States, Fukudome does have a .361 on-base percentage in the major leagues, and he has played solid defense in right field and center field.

Considering the small financial commitment, Fukudome is a good sign for the White Sox. He also is the only free agent the Sox added this off-season.

"Given he's a veteran player, we're not expecting him to come in and make changes," Hahn said. "Obviously, every player makes adjustments as the league adjusts to them, and we've seen Kosuke do that over the last few years.

"We just want him to be the player he's proven to be over the last four years, someone who gives you quality ABs against righties, gets on base and plays good defense."

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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