Fukudome heads to Indians for prospects
Cubs acquire outfielder Abreu, right-hander Smith in return
MILWAUKEE -- The Cubs began preparations for next season on Thursday when they dealt outfielder Kosuke Fukudome to the Indians for two Minor Leaguers.
The right fielder, who won Cubs fans over on Opening Day 2008 when he went 3-for-3 with a game-tying home run, had a limited no-trade clause and the Indians were one of the teams on the list he did not want to go to. However, Fukudome decided to waive the clause and accept the deal.
"It was a difficult decision to make, and not simply because I was here for a long time, but also it's a different league," Fukudome said Thursday through interpreter Hiro Aoyama.
Fukudome's family gave him the go-ahead. The Cubs approached him about a possible deal after the All-Star break, and he agreed a couple days ago, he said.
"In the end, Kosuke looked at this as an opportunity for him to come to a team that's competing for the postseason and get some regular at-bats," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "I think that was an attractive alternative for him."
The left-handed hitter is owed about $4.7 million for the rest of the season, and the Cubs will pick up all but $775,000 of that.
Moving Fukudome opens right field for Tyler Colvin, the Cubs' first-round pick in 2006 who hit 20 home runs last season. He joined the team in Milwaukee in time for the series finale against the Brewers on Thursday.
"Obviously, [Fukudome] did do some good things here and he played a lot of times very solidly," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "The first year, he made the All-Star team. There were some tough times, too, and bad endings. He didn't play as well in the second half.
"He was a great defender," Hendry said. "In a perfect world, we thought the bat would've played a little larger scale when we signed him. He's a quality guy, good teammate and we wish him nothing but the best. It's a good opportunity for him."
Fukudome said he wants to play baseball in the United States next season.
"It's a good thing for him," Hendry said. "He gets in a pennant race with a good organization and he can showcase himself in a little bit more of a limelight situation since they're in it, and hopefully that helps him for next year. It was a good ending for everyone."
The Indians were in need of outfield help with both Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore on the disabled list.
Fukudome, 34, was batting .273 in his fourth season with the Cubs, with three homers, 15 doubles, two triples, 13 RBIs and a .374 on-base percentage. He was the Cubs' first Japanese player, signing a four-year deal in December 2007.
In exchange, the Cubs acquired outfielder Abner Abreu and pitcher Carlton Smith. Abreu, a right-handed hitter from the Dominican Republic, was batting .244 in 91 games with high Class A Kinston in the Carolina League. He had 12 homers, 16 doubles, five triples and 35 RBIs.
Smith, 25, a right-handed pitcher, was 2-3 with two saves and a 4.50 ERA in 34 games for Triple-A Columbus. He has 46 strikeouts in 46 innings, and teams are batting .259 against him.
In 2008, Fukudome's first season, he made his only All-Star team and the Cubs made the playoffs.
"The first year we were in the playoffs was something special for me," Fukudome said. "It was the first year I was in the United States and playing for a Major League Baseball team. It was unfortunate I couldn't help much, but hopefully the team is going to do well."
He admitted to not knowing much about Cleveland.
"I know there is a lake, Lake Erie, and I know it looks like Chicago," he said.
"He's the ultimate professional, class act, happy and healthy and ready to play every day," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "He had respect for the game, for himself and for the organization. I will miss him. For all the lineup changes and the stuff we've done, you could count on him in the leadoff role.
"We'll miss him, and I'll be a big Cleveland fan for the rest of the year. We'll miss him, and I hope he plays well."
There is one thing Fukudome wants to do, and that's say goodbye to the right-field bleacher fans.
"I really enjoyed them, and if I have an opportunity to stand in the same position again, I'd really like to do it," he said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.