The 34-year-old Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome has been dealt to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for two prospects. In what has become a strange four-year career for Fukudome, he is now given a second chance to fill a major role on a contending team. This is the first pennant race Fukudome has been a part of since his rookie year (2008) in Chicago. After a fury of rumors involving the Cleveland Indians, it seems they have settled on their outfield help, although more trades could be coming soon.
This season, Fukudome is hitting .273 with little power, only 3 HRs and 13 RBIs. This is a surprising move for the Tribe who seemed to be looking for a little more power to add to the lineup. However, with an ailing Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo, this will be a welcome addition to add a hitter to fill those needs. Although Ezequiel Carrera showed potential for the Tribe, he was not ready to fill the void left by Sizemore in center field as he was recovered from surgery. So, in comes Fukudome to solidify the lead-off spot in the batting order and center field, thus allowing Sizemore and Choo to fully recover for the final playoff push. Fukudome also adds veteran depth to an outfield in need of it. Come playoff time, the Tribe will likely carry four outfielders: Fukudome, Choo, Sizemore and Michael Brantley.
This is unless the Tribe is set on adding more power to the lineup with another outfielder replacing Brantley. Because the two players possess similar skill sets, it is yet to be seen whether Fukudome is better than Brantley. Luckily for the Indians, no one seems to be running away with the division, which allows the Tribe to recover from injuries for the final playoff run.
Fukudome has had an interesting baseball career. Starting in Japan for the Chunichi Dragons, he quickly became MVP of the league. During his last five seasons, Fukudome averaged .322/27HR/90 RBI. He was viewed as a prize free-agent when the Cubs signed him in 2008 to a four-year, $33.5 million contract, including a hefty signing bonus. Fukudome started off strong, earning a trip to 2008 All-Star Game. However, his second half struggles would prove to be a downfall in his career.
Whether Fukudome is struggling with the strain of the travel or the adjustments to America, he has yet to hit his stride in the majors. Fukudome is getting a second chance, without the huge expectations he once had. If Fukudome can provide stable production while Choo and Sizemore recover, the Tribe will be right in the thick of the American League Central standings, healthy and ready to make a move. Are the Tribe done making moves this season? Maybe, but probably not.