Contrary to popular belief, right fielder Kosuke Fukudome of the Chicago Cubs is not a bad hitter. Though just a .258 career hitter, Fukudome's on-base percentage in two Major League seasons is a more than respectable .367.
Popular belief has a funny way of creeping into Chicago's front office, however, and so GM Jim Hendry went out this winter and procured reinforcements.
Xavier Nady, 31, played in just seven games last year before a serious elbow injury claimed his season.
He still received a World Series ring from the eventual champion New York Yankees, but there was barely a whisper of talk that the Bronx Bombers were even considering bringing back Nady over the winter.
A large part of that is because Nady, a right-handed batter who plays average defense in either left or right field, simply no longer fit the team's needs.
Nick Swisher's revival in Nady's absence made him the 2010 right fielder by default, and when the team traded for left-handed batter and erstwhile Detroit Tigers All-Star Curtis Granderson, it became clear that the Yankee outfield was too crowded for Nady.
Chicago, however, was in need of exactly what Nady brings to the table. A .307/.382/.470 career hitter vs. southpaw pitching, Nady can platoon with Fukudome in right field, and spell left fielder Alfonso Soriano and his balky knees.
He also adds right-handed power off the bench, something the team has lacked for more than a decade: Glenallen Hill was the last Cub to pop 20 or more home runs while coming off the bench at least 40 times, when he did so in 1999.
Questions about Nady's health will abound this spring, circling around when his arm will be fully healthy. Until that happens, manager Lou Piniella will have to use him strictly in pinch-hitting roles.
The early reports, however, suggest Nady could be at full strength before the team breaks camp.
If he gets and stays healthy all season, Nady will be a tremendously valuable addition to the team, and will more than earn his $3.3 million keep for one season. Here are my projected totals for the X-Man in 2010:
- 117 games
- 414 plate appearances
- .284/.339/.464 AVG/OBP/SLG
- 15 home runs
For that kind of performance, the team would be getting a bargain, and Nady's stock would rise as he prepares to dive back into free agency next off-season.
Watch for the rest of my 2010 Cubs profiles, which I'll continue to do throughout the rest of the off-season.
Here is a selection of those already done, and a few on the way soon.