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updated: 2/26/2012 7:27 PM

Fukudome's deal a cheap gift for Sox

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  • Kosuke Fukudome signs an autograph for a fan Sunday at White Sox camp in Glendale, Ariz. Fukudome gives the Sox a low-risk option in the outfield and is likely just a stopgap as the South Siders wait for one of three prospects to develop.

       Kosuke Fukudome signs an autograph for a fan Sunday at White Sox camp in Glendale, Ariz. Fukudome gives the Sox a low-risk option in the outfield and is likely just a stopgap as the South Siders wait for one of three prospects to develop.
    SCOT GREGOR | Staff Photographer

  • Kosuke Fukudome signed a $500,000 contract with the White Sox on Valentine's Day.

       Kosuke Fukudome signed a $500,000 contract with the White Sox on Valentine's Day.
    SCOT GREGOR | Staff Photographer

 
 

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- On Valentine's Day, the White Sox bought themselves a cheap gift.

For a relative paltry $500,000, the Sox landed Kosuke Fukudome.

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The sum was roughly $49.5 million less than the White Sox dangled in front of Fukudome before the 2008 season.

Instead, the former Japanese Central League MVP signed a four-year, $48 million contract with the rival Cubs, which actually wound up making the White Sox look good.

Fukudome was pretty much a bust on the North Side, never batting higher than .273, hitting more than 13 homers or driving in more than 58 runs.

A free agent this winter after spending the final two months of 2011 with the Cleveland Indians, Fukudome signed with the Sox for $500,000 right before spring training. The 34-year-old outfielder does have a $3.5 million option for 2013, but the White Sox protected themselves with a $500,000 buyout.

All in all, Fukudome is a low-risk, low-cost addition.

He has a funky swing and doesn't hit for much power, but Fukudome is still a tough out, as his .361 on-base percentage over the past four seasons indicates.

The left-handed hitter can help the White Sox by starting in place of Dayan Viciedo against quality right-handed starters.

Fukudome is also a defensive asset in right and center field, so he does have some value.

"The White Sox gave me the chance to play," Fukudome said Sunday through interpreter D.J. Matsumoto. "That's all I was asking for. I'm really looking forward to proving what I can do. I just want to contribute to the team as soon as possible. I'm going to do all I can."

Fukudome can indeed help out this year, but he is also buying the Sox time as they wait for a trio of young outfielders to develop.

If Jordan Danks, Jared Mitchell and/or Trayce Thompson step up this season, the White Sox are certain to trigger the buyout at the end of the year and say so long to Fukudome.

Jordan Danks, the younger brother of new Sox ace John Danks, was expected to be on the 25-man roster by now.

But after batting a combined .258 in the minor leagues the past four seasons, Danks is no longer on the White Sox' 40-man. He is in camp this spring as a nonroster invitee.

"Nonroster guys usually don't make the team, but my biggest job is making the decision harder for them," said Danks, a standout defensive center fielder. "My offense, I think that's definitely the aspect of my game that needs to improve. I'm not a horrible hitter, but there's definitely a lot of room for improvement.

"I've been told I have the defense down and I can play defense with the best of them. So it's just figuring out that offensive mentality and I should be ready to go."

Mitchell, the Sox' first-round draft pick in 2009 after starring in baseball and football at LSU, missed the entire '10 season with a torn tendon in his left ankle.

Last year, the 23-year-old outfielder batted .222 at Class A Winston-Salem and struck out 183 times in 477 at-bats.

"Just play more, I've got to keep playing," Mitchell said. "The more you play the more you figure things out. I'm not going to sit here and beat myself up over it (strikeouts). I'm just trying to keep getting better every day."

Thompson, 20, has made steady progress since being drafted out of high school in 2009. He comes from a basketball family -- his father Mychal played in the NBA and his brothers Klay and Mychel are also pro basketball players -- but Trayce Thompson chose baseball.

"My dad always said play the sport that you love," Trayce said. "I played football, basketball and baseball in high school, and baseball was the one I liked the most. To be here in camp, this a great opportunity for me."

Thompson hit 24 home runs at Class A Kannapolis last season. He also struck out 172 times, which is why he worked with St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach Mark McGwire over the winter.

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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