Indians ‘fans’ want a power hitting right handed hitter, they got a left handed slap hitter with gap power. Fukudome has been somewhat of a disappointment since signing a 4 year $48 million contract in 2008 after winning and MVP in Japan.
Now in 2011 he has made one All Star game (2008) and has mostly been platooned, playing mostly against right handers. Whatever he did in 2008-2010 no longer matters. What matters is what he has done in 2011.
He has mostly hit leadoff for the Cubs, who have been a lousy team at best. Hitting leadoff in the NL doesn’t provide a multitude of RBI chances, which explains his 13 RBI on the season.
He doesn’t possess the power the Indians fans want or that the team needs.
What Fukudome does do well is get on base, something the Indians only did two times on Wednesday in being no hit by Angels pitcher Ervin Santana.
It’s hard to score runs when you can’t get players on base and that is Fukudome’s best skill.
On the season he is hitting .273 with a .374 on base percentage. He can also play a very good defensive center and right field, something the Indians need.
H has struck out 57 times and walked 46. The 46 walks are good enough for second on the Indians while his on base percentage is good for second on the team (above Carlos Santana and right below Travis Hafner at .399.)
No word from Manny Acta has been released if Fukudome will platoon or bat leadoff. He may not bat leadoff and may find himself with more RBI opportunities than he did this season. He has hit .311 with runners on, something the Indians are sorely lacking.
My main concern is that, his bat didn’t quite translate from Japan to the majors. So will his bat get any better or at least stay the same in his transition to the American league, a league he is unfamiliar with and with arguably better pitching. In the AL Central the Indians probably have the best starting pitching, but Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in the division, and Max Scherzer has been pretty good. Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd from the White Sox have all given the Indians problems. Fukudome has faced that group of pitchers a few times thanks to interleague player. But how would Fukudome fare against Dan Haren, Jared Weaver, and Ervin Santana as the Indians just got shut down by. We won’t know unless the two teams square off in October.
Is Fukudome going to make the Indians the clear favorite to win the division? No, not by any means.
The Indians re-acquired Kenny Lofton in 2007, who was hitting .283 and a .370 on base percentage and fans were downright giddy to have Lofton. Mostly because he was a former Indian with a link to the fruitful 90s.
Fukudome isn’t by any means Lofton but he brings the same kind of tools that Lofton brought at the 2007 stage of his career.
Fans cannot think of this deal in terms of how much of an impact will he make. Think of it in terms more of how much of an upgrade of Buck is he? Buck his .228 with a .275 on base percentage and was average at best in the outfield. He had just eight walks in 160 plate appearances. It’s not a blockbuster deal or a team changing deal but it’s an upgrade.
Most importantly it came at a ridiculously low cost. It will cost the Indians $775,000 of Fukudome’s contract on their books. It may cost them Buck, who had to be designated for assignment to clear a spot on the 40 man roster to add Fukudome.
It cost AAA relief pitcher Carlton Smith, who had a 4.50 ERA in Columbus this season in 36 appearances. The deal also included outfielder Abner Abreu. Abreu is hitting .244 with 10 home runs at High A Kinston in his second year in the league. Abreu has potential but could be years away from getting there, and its likely limited potential.
The important thing in this deal is that the Indians added some key skills to some sore areas (walks and on base percentage) at a low, low cost. They kept a lot more of their trade chips (Cord Phelps, Zach Putnam, Josh Judy, Nick Hagadone, and Luis Valbuena among others.)
This most likely will not be the only deal the Indians make.
They are reportedly interested in Jamey Carroll, but I’m not sure where he fits at the moment with Jack Hannahan and Orlando Cabrera not seeing much playing time on the infield.
The Indians at this moment are pushing hard for right handed outfielder Ryan Ludwick, who might come at a bit steeper price than Fukudome. They are also interested in Hiroki Kuroda, who may not waive his no trade clause for anyone, not just the Indians. They are also in talks with Colorado about All-Star pitcher Ubaldo Jiminez. The Rockies are asking for LHP Drew Pomeranz among others, so that conversation is likely to end quickly. The Indians ‘untouchables’ are Pomeranz, Alex White, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Jason Kipnis. The Fukudome deal might just be the first domino in the front office, looking to prove to fans and maybe themselves that they can go out and find the help to win this division without sacrificing their window of contention in 2012 and beyond.