What Fukudome Brings To The Tribe
By Craig Gifford
If nothing else, the Cleveland Indians are at least buyers at this year’s trade deadline and making moves to try and make some noise in the American League Central Division THIS year rather than a couple years from now.
After watching their team trade away All-Stars and solid veterans in exchange for promising prospects the last thee years, Tribe fans saw how the other half live Thursday morning ….. well, sort of.
The Indians added veteran outfielder Kosuke Fukudome nabbing him from the Cubs for AAA relief pitcher Carlton Smith and A outfielder Abner Abreu. The best part of the deal is that neither player the Tribe lost was really in their plans for the years to come. That and, while Fukudome’s numbers aren’t great, he will be an improvement over the light-hitting Travis Buck, who was designated for assignment after the trade went through.
Fukudome brings an adequate .273 batting average to a team full of every day players batting .250 and below. That in itself will help as the Indians try to make up the two games separating them and the front-running Detroit Tigers. It will also aid in trying to stave off the hard-charing White Sox, now only 1.5 games behind the Tribe.
Fukudome’s three home runs and 13 RBI, however, do not jump off the page at anyone. However, the Tribe can get by without adding another power bat. Where he will best serve the Indians is in bolstering the heart of the order. What the Tribe should do is insert Fukudome into the two hole. He is good at getting on base and can run a bit. He, along with leadoff hitter Michael Brantley, could set the table for big boppers Asdrubal Cabrera, Travis Hafner and Carlos Santana. The Indians could then move Ezequiel Carrera to the ninth spot, where he belongs.
This will also benefit when Shin-Soo Choo returns from injury in late August. Choo can be inserted lower in the lineup to work rust off, rather than try to be the man in the heart of the order.
So, the greatest difference Fukudome will likely have on the Indians will be an avalanche effect in allowing other players to bat in better spots in the line up. That can be key.
Fukudome will also bring some order to the Indians outfield. Before Thursday’s deal, Brantley was the only active outfielder really playing at a big league level. Carrera seems in over his head at times and a year away from really being a strong contributor. Buck has been iffy at best, and veteran Austin Kearns has been a disappointment.
When fully healthy, the outfield of Grady Sizemore, Brantley and Choo is among the top in baseball. The problem has been keeping that trio on the field. Fukudome gives the Tribe much-needed depth on the baseball green.
As stated earlier, one of the keys to this deal is the Tribe gave up very little for an average player. It will improve the team, without eating into a promising future. It could also mean the Tribe is not done. Many pundits looked at second-tier pitching prospects like David Huff and Jeanmar Gomez as possibilities to go in a trade. It is not out of the realm of possibility the Indians are still working the phones. Perhaps another bat is close behind Fukudome. Maybe anther quality arm is added to help bolster a young starting rotation.
Whatever the case is, the Inidans have helped themselves without hurting their future. This is good news. As for the present, Fukudome may not win a lot of games for the Tribe but will help bridge the gap to the first-place Tigers. The final two months could still be interesting on the shores of Lake Erie.