Kosuke Fukudome and 3 Chicago Cubs Who Should Be Re-Signed for Less Money
Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry has established a reputation over the years for giving players expensive contracts, hoping the players return on the investments. Oftentimes, these players have been known as busts.
Some of the players Hendry has signed have produced, to an extent, but they are not worth the money that he awarded them.
The Cubs' current roster is loaded with players whose contracts expire at the end of 2011, so the organization is going to have to make various decisions throughout the offseason as to who it should or should not attempt to retain.
The Cubs' 103-year World Series drought is the worst among all professional sports organizations, and the club's chances of winning have not gotten any better over the last few years. They're not going to be able to make one big signing, such as Prince Fielder, in order to turn this team into a World Series contender.
The front office is going to have money to spend, but it's going to have to have patience and not force any signings in hopes of being able to immediately turn this ballclub around. Remember, there are areas of concern all over this roster.
There are a few players on the current roster that are currently overpaid, but for the right price, it would be nice seeing them in Cubby Blue next year. Here's a list of current Cubs that should be re-signed at year's end for a cheaper price.
1. Carlos Pena
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I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Carlos Pena needs to be re-signed at the end of the 2011 season, but he shouldn't be signed for the $10 million annually he's currently signed for.
Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder are the obvious names available at first base at season's end, but the contracts that those two players desire seem like another busted-contract-in-the-making for the Cubs organization based on the number of years and dollars they're going to desire.
Pena provides the Cubs with a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman, power numbers in the middle of their line up, a left-handed hitter and an experienced, excited veteran for the clubhouse.
Pena is not the answer at first base for years to come, considering he's going to be 34 years old next year, but he is a solid sacrificial lamb for the next two or three years as the Cubs attempt to turn the franchise around.
The organization needs to address other areas of concern over the next two years that are much more in need than first base.
The Cubs should give Pena a three-year, $21 million contract, with no trade clause, so they have options down the line.
Pena should know he's not worth the $10 million annually and sign a less expensive deal with the Cubs. Plus, it seems like he has enjoyed being a Cub throughout the entire 2011 season and would be willing to help the organization.
2. Geovany Soto
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Geovany Soto, certainly, is not the player he was during his rookie season, when he won the National League's Rookie of the Year Award in 2008, and his numbers prove that. Geo's defense has gotten worse throughout the years as well.
Soto is making $3 million in 2011. Consider the lack of depth the catcher position has in Major League Baseball and decide whether or not it is worth keeping Geo around.
Koyie Hill, current Cubs backup catcher, is not going to solve any problems behind the plate. Hill cannot hit worth a lick.
The Cubs have a few catchers in their farm system, but unless you have one like Buster Posey, you can't rely on these guys coming up to the majors and making a big impact right away. Welington Castillo is on the Cubs' 40-man roster, but he's made a mere 13 plate appearances this season.
Soto still has some potential with his bat. He's yet to produce two solid seasons in a row, but if that's the case, then he's due for a solid season next year.
The right move for the Cubs to make is to sign Geo to a one-year, $2 million contract heading into 2012 and see how he plays then. If that doesn't pan out, Russel Martin is a free agent at the end of the 2012 season.
3. Kosuke Fukudome
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Kosuke Fukudome made quite the first impression when he came onto the Major League Baseball scene in 2008. He hit what would be the game-winning home run on Opening Day for the Chicago Cubs, but he has not lived up to his four-year, $48 million contract.
In Fukudome's instance, nobody knew much about him prior to his MLB debut, but there were high expectations when he came to Chicago because of how much his contract was worth.
Fukudome's contract expires at the end of the season, and he should know that he is not a $12 million annual MLB player.
Fukudome has quietly increased his average in each of his first four major league seasons, and his OBP has been consistent throughout that time.
Kosuke has improved offensively throughout his stint with the Cubs, and you can see that in his confidence at the plate, as well as his lack of spinning when he swings and misses.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Cubs management must focus on the changes that need to be made throughout the pitching staff. The majority of the team's resources should be spent on improving the starting rotation and bullpen.
The right fielder free-agent market is slim heading into the 2012 season, and Fukudome is just as valuable for the next year or so as anyone else on the free-agent market.
Fukudome provides the Cubs with a solid leadoff hitter, a left-handed bat and a strong arm in right field. Ideally, the Cubs would sign Fukudome for two years, $10 million and make him available for trades until the roster is in better shape to contend. If Fukudome wants a contract closer to $8 million annually, then the Cubs should let him test the market and sign Andre Ethier in 2013.
4. Matt Garza
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The Cubs gave up a lot of young talent when they traded for Matt Garza heading into the 2011 season. Unfortunately, the team has not succeeded as much as it should've when Garza has taken the mound.
Garza has pitched much better than his 4-7 record indicates, considering he's earned five no-decisions when giving up two or fewer earned runs on different occasions.
Because of the Cubs' lack of talent and bang-for-your-buck in their starting rotation, I don't regret the Garza trade even though he has not tallied up the wins like some hoped he would.
Garza is making about $6 million this year, and his contract expires at the end of the season.
Garza is the ideal No. 3 pitcher in the Cubs' starting rotation. He's making a third of what Carlos Zambrano is making annually and has been more productive this season.
I'd like to see the Cubs re-sign Garza to a three- or four-year contract worth about $5 million a year.
If the Cubs can build their starting rotation around Garza as their No. 3, they should be in decent shape. The Cubs can sign a legitimate ace (C.J. Wilson), and hopefully Andrew Cashner can be the stud that the organization has been talking about. Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster will be gone as soon as possible, and before you know it, the Cubs can have a legitimate starting rotation that isn't overpaid.
But that's being an optimistic Cubs fan.