The height of Kosuke Fukudome’s popularity in Chicago might just be Opening Day, 2008, his very first game as a Cub. Down 3-0 in the bottom of the 9th, Fukudome comes up with two men on base and blasts his first career home run. The Cubs would go on to lose that game, but for Fukudome, it was a 3 for 3 day and the first of 37 home runs for the rightfielder, described as a cross between Ichiro and Hideki Matsui. Unfortunately, those 37 home runs would be his career total, and with him being traded to the Cleveland Indians on Thursday, that comes out to about $1.3 million per home run.

His strength is his ability to take a walk, but teams don’t pay rightfielders $48 million to take a walk. Teams don’t pay rightfielders $5 million to take a walk. They need to hit and, ideally, hit for power. Because of this there weren’t many suitors for his services. But being a free agent with a good OBP, he’ll make a good injury replacement in Cleveland’s lineup and give them a modest improvement over what they have now, at basically no cost to them.

In return, the Cubs get a relief pitcher in Carlton Smith and an outfielder in Abner Abreu.

Smith is a 25 year old in his second AAA season. He’s got a low 90’s fastball and a slider but is only useful against right handed hitters. He’ll probably get a cup of coffee but won’t be much more than a 10th or 11th man in the pen unless his uptick in strikeouts this year is for real.

Abreu is, in the words of Keith Law, the lottery ticket. He’s got a great arm in a corner outfield spot and good bat speed, but his approach is Cub-like. He doesn’t walk, he strikes out a lot, but he’s got some power and he’s got some speed (19 of 22 stolen bases this year). Sounds similar to January’s trade of Tom Gorzelanny where they received Michael Burgess in return (that trade is looking mighty bad, by the way).

The reaction will probably be “what a terrible trade”. But this is what Fukudome is worth. He’s been on the market since last offseason, the 29 other GM’s all knew Fukudome was available, and it just so happened that none would part with anything more than this.

“So why make the trade?!” you may ask. “Why NOT make the trade” is my answer. What were the Cubs going to get by keeping him? Zilch. The “prospects” might not be much, but they’re under team control for 6 years each. You may as well take the chance that they’ll contribute SOMETHING more in that time than Fukudome would contribute in the next two months.

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