One storyline that may be overlooked this season is the fact that Kosuke Fukudome is entering the last year of his contract. Fukudome reported to camp today, and discussed his contract situation along with what his expectations are for the upcoming season.
"“There were some times I was good and bad,” he said. “I need to be consistent so I can have good results.”The outfielder isn’t worried about playing time, even though Tyler Colvin had an impressive rookie season.“I don’t think about the other guys,” Fukudome said through interpreter Hiro Aoyama. “I just need to do what I can do. I need to take care of myself first so I can be a better player.” Muskat Ramblings"
Many felt that Fukudome needed a change of scenery. Fukudome got that change of scenery, despite not being traded from the Chicago Cubs. With the managerial change from Lou Piniella to Mike Quade, I anticipate that Fukudome will have a more consistent season in 2011. Not to put blame on Piniella, but it seemed like there was always a barrier between Piniella and Fukudome. Which led to Piniella hardly playing Fukudome at certain times last season. Under Mike Quade last season, Fukudome hit .277/.390/.482 which was significantly better than the .258/.365/.425 he hit under Piniella last season.
I also think that Fukudome will start more times than most expect him to. With the inconsistent stretches that we see from Alfonso Soriano, there is a strong chance that Fukudome will see some playing time in left field. While the consensus is that Tyler Colvin will be an everyday player, I’m tended to believe that Quade will run a platoon between Fukudome and Colvin with Colvin getting majority of the starts in right field. But on days that Tyler Colvin may be playing first base to give Carlos Pena a breather, I’m sure Fukudome will be starting in right field.
"This is the last year of his four-year contract with the Cubs. He bought a house in Chicago. Would he like to stay with the team?“The Chicago Cubs are the first team I came to when I came into the United States so if I could stay, that would be great,” he said. “It’s not my decision to make. We’ll see what’s going to happen.” Muskat Ramblings"
It certainly is not out of the question that Fukudome could return next season. Most people see the trade rumors involving Fukudome as a signal that the Cubs do not like him as a player, but that is not the case. In fact, most within the Cubs front office are still high on Fukudome. The reason the Cubs have been trying to move Fukudome is because of the fact that he is owed $13.5MM this season. If Fukudome puts together a consistent season, then the Cubs may look into signing him to an extension.