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Columnist
Cubs really cornered this market
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 12/12/2007 12:17 AM

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By early Tuesday evening, the deal was done.

The word in San Diego was that Kosuke Fukudome wasn't going anywhere but the North Side of Chicago to play baseball next summer.

Said a San Diego source Tuesday night, "Let's put it this way: If the Cubs want him, they'll get him. There's no amount of money they can't spend, and teams like the Padres and White Sox can't say that. So if the Cubs want him, the Padres can't stop them.''

Well, there you have it.

If the Cubs want him, they'll get him.

And they did.

The Pads made a substantial offer, but they knew the Cubs had jumped in much higher than anyone else, as they did with Alfonso Soriano a year ago.

The Cubs showed their cards early and let it be known that they intended to blow everyone away, essentially driving up the price and bidding against themselves, as was the case with Soriano.

But when you think about it, what's it matter?

It's not my money. It's not your money. It's not Jim Hendry's money. It's not even the Cubs' money.

It's the next owner that will foot these bills for a long time.

Sure, in time you're going to pay at the box office, but right now it's all about the glory of ending a gory, 99-year drought.

But these contracts are going to be around long after anyone negotiating them has departed the organization, when people begin to realize that some of these deals were irresponsible.

As for Fukudome, the scouts we've spoken to believe he will be a fine major-league player. They expect we'll see a solid outfielder, with good speed and a quality bat.

"Nice player,'' is often the way he's described.

Even if he's just decent, he fills a hole in right field, where the Cubs expect him to play, hoping they don't have to shift him to center.

But just because they're paying him to perform like Carlos Beltran, it would be unfair to expect that kind of production.

Still, if he's healthy, Fukudome will help the Cubs win another bad division next year.

The team finally is paying more than lip service to their lack of left-handed hitting, woeful on-base percentage and awful baserunning, three things Fukudome improves immediately.

That will help come playoff time, especially if they bat Fukudome third, move Soriano to sixth and slot Derrek Lee fifth.

Good luck explaining that to Soriano.

The scary part is that not every player arriving here from Japan is Ichiro, but if Fukudome is half that, the Cubs will have a good major-league player.

If he's not, the same people cheering today will flip-flop and turn on the Cubs, just as they did when they realized Soriano was overpaid and not as advertised.

Look, you're not alone if you think nearly $50 million is a lot of money for a relatively unknown quantity, for a 31-year-old rookie coming off elbow surgery, for a solid gap hitter who might hit twice as many doubles as homers.

Is he worth it?

Not a single club in baseball thought he was worth that price except the Cubs, and little in their history suggests the stuff of ground-breaking genius.

But then again, who cares?

It's not our money.

brozner@dailyherald.com