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Cubs interested in Japanese free agents
But it's sayonara for Floyd, Trachsel
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 11/4/2007 5:28 AM

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Jim Hendry will head east today, as he flies from Arizona to Florida and baseball's general managers meetings.

The GM of the Cubs also will be looking to the Far East.

During last week's organizational meetings in Mesa, Ariz., the Cubs indeed discussed the possible signings of prominent Japanese free agents Kosuke Fukudome and Hiroki Kuroda.

Fukudome is a left-handed batting corner outfielder who can hit for power and put up a high on-base percentage, something the Cubs desperately need and something field manager Lou Piniella wants.

Kuroda is a right-handed pitcher who might be able to fit into the No. 3 slot in the Cubs' rotation, which could use some bolstering after a season of inconsistency.

The Cubs will not have to cough up big "posting" fees just to talk with Fukudome and Kuroda, but each player must declare free agency and his intention to come to North America before teams here may negotiate with them.

Cubs insiders said their scouts like both players, but Hendry said he didn't want to talk about either until they declared.

Although the Cubs liked Kuroda in the past -- personal reasons kept him in Japan this year -- the fierce competition for pitching may make Fukudome an easier player to sign.

"We're looking to try to get better," Hendry said Saturday from Arizona. "We came out here with thorough information on all the other organizations and free agents. Our scouts did a good job getting deep into their coverage and giving us a lot of insight.

"We'll have different avenues (to explore). We don't have a plan to get 'this guy' or 'that guy.' It's not like last year, when we signed (Mark) DeRosa early, and that set up a lot of the other things we did. It'll be a normal, aggressive path."

Hendry said he already has set up "four or five meetings" with GMs of other clubs for this week. The Cubs could get a deal done -- perhaps trading outfielder Jacque Jones, reliever Will Ohman or another pitcher -- or they could set the stage for something to get done next month at the winter meetings.

Job 1 may be to try to get a deal done with reliever Kerry Wood before he goes on the open market. The Cubs may want to offer Wood, say, one year plus an option. If Wood hits the market, other clubs may offer him much more.

The Cubs and pinch hitter Daryle Ward, as expected, exercised the $1.2 million option for 2008. At the same time, the Cubs bade farewell to outfielder Cliff Floyd and pitcher Steve Trachsel by declining their options. They also added pitcher Adam Harben to the 40-man roster from the minor leagues.

The moves happened Friday, but the Cubs chose not to announce them until Saturday.

Ward, 32, batted .327 with 3 homers and an OBP of .436. As a pinch hitter, he was 11-for-41 with 18 walks. Ward spent a couple of stints on the disabled list with hip and calf injuries.

"We felt Ward was arguably the best pinch hitter, and if not, he certainly was in the upper echelon," Hendry said.

Nagging injuries also slowed Floyd, who batted .294 in 108 games. Hendry expressed no regrets about trading youngsters Scott Moore and Rocky Cherry to Baltimore for Trachsel, who went 1-3 with an 8.31 ERA after the Aug. 31 trade.

"Steve Trachsel won a huge game for us in Houston," Hendry said, referring to a 6-2 victory Sept. 13 at Houston. "That enabled us to do exactly what we wanted to do: start Carlos Zambrano in the first game (of a key series) at St. Louis."