Considering Fukudome

There’s been some buzz in Mets circles surrounding Kosuke Fukudome, the free-agent outfielder from Japan.

Though it’s doubtful that the Mets are seriously considering him, his name has already been thrown out there by MetsBlog, MetsGeek, and RotoWorld.

Let’s see if we can’t put an end to the silliness here.

The positives:

  • He’s a true free-agent, so no need or economic waste for the ridiculous posting system that Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kei Igawa went through last year.
  • He won’t cost the Mets a compensatory draft pick, such as other big-name free-agents might
  • He’s a Japanese MVP and All-Star, projected to have gap power and a strong OBP

The negatives:

  • His name is “Fukudome”. Can you imagine the terrible things the fans will say if he fails the way of other Mets’ Japanese imports?
  • Considering that he’ll likely have a significant dropoff in power, is he really going to be a better option than, say, Carlos Gomez?
  • Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Masato Yoshii, Takashi Kashiwada, Shingo Takatsu, Satoru Komiyama, Norihiru Nokamura, Kaz Matsui … need we say more?

The Mets’ history with Japanese imports has not been good (to say the least), and though that doesn’t mean Fukudome would also be a bust, it would be added pressure for him joining the club. And let’s face it — anyone coming to New York from Japan and not playing at least as well as Hideki Matsui will be considered a bust. And Matsui is a rare, remarkable player.

Signing Fukudome would smack of a Steve Phillips move — and be similarly chided and ridiculed if it didn’t work out. Omar Minaya has done everything he could to distance himself from Phillips and Jim Duquette, and from the perspective of his image, I’d be surprised if he chose to take the chance of being compared to either of his immediate predecessors. Minaya does not want to be another Mets GM remembered for wasting money on an overhyped Japanese import (unless it’s a Lexus).

Of course, there is the chance that Fukudome is all that he’s been billed to be — a rare talent who can play to the level of Hideki Matsui. He’ll have to be, in New York, because the media will be all over him with intense skepticism, waiting for him to fail.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Fukudome is all that — though I do think he’d do fine in, say, Seattle, where Japanese players have succeeded, or Texas, where they don’t have high expectations. According to the various scouting reports and statistics found around the ‘net, my wild and uneducated guess is that Fukudome’s production will be something like:

.280 AVG. | 75 R | 30 2B | 12 HR | 75 RBI | 40 BB | 8 SB | 125 K | .365 OBP | .440 SLG

From what I gather, Fukudome is a good fielder in Japan, which I guess would translate to an OK to good fielder in MLB, where the balls come out a bit quicker. Looking at those numbers, is he worth pursuing? Of course, my projection could be way off.

Further, Fukudome is a lefthanded batter, and as we’ve already discovered, there are plenty of lefthanded-hitting outfielders available on the market this winter.

I’m not seeing Fukudome patrolling the outfield at Shea in orange and blue next year. But hey, I’ve been wrong before.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude October 6, 2007 at 2:21 pm
    Never heard of the guy, so thanks for the briefing, Joe. I agree with you that 1) he’s probably not cut out to fill the role the Mets want him to, and 2) he wouldn’t be any other option to what we already have. If given full seasons, it looks like Fukudome would be very similar to Shawn Green…just better defensively. And if the Mets really want a singles hitting, left-hand swinging, outfield reserve, Green would come much cheaper and much higher regarded.

    I don’t see Omar as a big supporter of taking chances on the Japanese. He traded for Ishii from LA in ’05 but only gave up Jason Phillips, and Ishii only lasted one season before getting released (he’s since yet to resurface). He picked up Takatsu that same year, and after a brief 9 game stint was granted free agency and, like Ishii, has never been heard from again. He inherited Kaz and shipped him to Colorado in ’06 for Eli Marrero (essentially shedding payroll). I’m hard pressed to think of another Japanese play who has played under Omar in recent years.

    So after those players left a bitter tase in his mouth, it wasn’t surprising to see him not only not get involved in the Matsuzaka sweepstakes last offseason, but also pass up on acquiring Tad Iguchi from the ChiSox and instead target Castillo from Minnesota this past July (and I think we’ll all agree Castillo was the better fit anyway). The trend will likely continue, and Omar will continue his love affair of going after the marquee Latino players rather than the Asians. And for this offseason, with Silva, Cordero, Dotel on the market, that may not be such a bad thing.

    I say let Fukudome sign with Tampa Bay and pal around with another Japanese import Akinori Iwamura (probably get a similar contract around $3-4-mil a year). The the Rays can rename their stadium the “Fuku” Dome and increase their attendance numbers as folks will flock just to say they saw a game at the f*ck-u-dome.