Chicago White Sox: Kosuke Fukudome Prime Example of Salary Driving Expectations

Jon FromiSenior Analyst IFebruary 14, 2012

Kosuke Fukudome is a veteran signing by Kenny Williams that won't break the bank.
Kosuke Fukudome is a veteran signing by Kenny Williams that won't break the bank.Brian Kersey/Getty Images

The Chicago White Sox just picked up a player in former Cub Kosuke Fukudome that puts into sharp focus how a player's salary skews the way that player is viewed both by a ball club and its fanbase.

At $14.5 million, Fukudome was a colossal bust and one of the many Jim Hendry signings that contributed to his firing last summer.

Earning $1 million of guaranteed money, Fukudome is a solid piece of the White Sox bench. It also probably makes Phil Humber feel a bit safer on the mound in 2012.

A Fukudome hit through the box caught Humber in the head in mid-August last season while the outfielder was playing out the season in Cleveland. Now he's making his way back to Chicago, this time on the South Side and for a few dollars less than his ballyhooed contract with the Cubs.

The 35-year-old Fukudome is set to earn $500,000 for his play this season. The White Sox can then pick up a $3.5 million option in 2013 or buy him out for another half a million. For this, GM Kenny Williams gives new manager Robin Ventura an experienced left-handed bat to mix into the lineup.

Fukudome is also an above-average glove that can fill in at right or center field. I could see him patrolling the outfield for extended stretches if needed. For the price, Williams made a heck of a pickup.

Williams adds Fukudome to an outfield also featuring his own albatross, Alex Rios. The struggles of the $12 million Rios were well documented in 2011.

A quick stat comparison puts the two veteran outfielders' production in perspective:

Rios: Batting .227, .265 OBP, 64 runs, 13 homers, 44 RBI, 68 Ks, 27 BBs.

Fukudome: Batting .262, .342 OBP, 59 runs, 8 homers, 35 RBI, 110 Ks, 61 BBs.

Poor production for such bloated contracts, right? Now imagine Fukudome posting at least a semblance of those numbers at his current salary.

It might not make you forget about how Rios is robbing the White Sox for the next three years if he can't figure it out. It does, however, provide the organization with some value in a year when salary is a factor.

In case of injury, Fukudome is a much better option to take over center field than, say, Jordan Danks, if Chicago has any hope of being competitive this season. They hardly made a high-impact signing on par with Oakland's big catch of Yoenis Cespedes, but right now it looks to be a solid baseball move from Williams.