Cubs await Fukudome's decision

Cubs await Fukudome's decision

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Cubs are waiting for Kosuke Fukudome to decide whether he wants to play in the U.S., and the Japanese outfielder's agent said he hopes to narrow the field by the end of the week.

"There's always the possibility he could stay in Japan because he has an attractive offer from the Tokyo Giants," agent Joe Urbon said Monday. "At the same time, the information I relayed to him is that the interest level here is equally high."

The Giants have made a four-year offer to Fukudome, and there are at least four other teams in the U.S. interested in him besides the Cubs, including the Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, and Chicago White Sox.

Urbon would not comment on which teams had contacted him about Fukudome.

"The clubs I've spoken to know that," Urbon said, referring to his wish to soon identify his client's top choices.

Urbon is not attending the Winter Meetings, but said he would come to Nashville if the situation warrants. The Cubs and Urbon have been in contact.

The issue isn't whether Fukudome would be comfortable in the U.S. He played here with Japan during the World Baseball Classic, and also had bone chips removed from his elbow by doctors in California.

"This is a very confident, dynamic player who wants to compete and win a World Series," Urbon said. "He's already won a Japanese World Series. He has to consider all his options."

Fukudome fits the type of outfielder the Cubs are looking for. He's a left-handed bat, with a high on-base percentage, some power, speed, and can play center or right.

"A year ago for us, it didn't matter [left or right]," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Monday. "[Alfonso] Soriano was the best player [available]. The great right-hand hitters hit right-handed pitching. After a while, you want some kind of balance."

The Cubs already have their share of right-handed hitters in the lineup, beginning with Soriano. They want a lefty in the mix to provide some balance.

"There's a good likelihood we don't leave here with a new outfielder who is that kind of player," Hendry said. "You don't have any assurances you're going to get one. You just have to keep plugging."

With Ryan Dempster moving to the rotation, it appears the Cubs have a surplus of arms they could use in a deal to obtain that elusive outfielder in a trade.

Winter Meetings

"Maybe so," Hendry said. "I think we went to camp last year thinking we had seven guys who could be in the rotation. Obviously, things go wrong, or [Mark] Prior wasn't ready, [Sean] Marshall wasn't ready, and you're back down figuring out the last week who's going to get a spot and the fifth job.

"If you don't leave here with all your needs filled, you'll eventually have to use your surplus to help acquire somebody," Hendry said. "If you have extra pitching, at all the levels in the system in the pen or in the rotation, you have to be ready to take the hit and lose some of that to get a player you might want. That's what you really have to be prepared for."

Hendry said there is no sense or urgency.

"What I feel good about," he said, "is I know, without needing a lot of bodies like last year, we've had a lot more time to get our own stuff together and we're real focused on who we think we'd like to get playing A, B, C, what we have in-house, what we feel we can deal from. I feel we're very prepared, but you can't force it."

He may get more dialogue going Monday night at a casual get together for the general managers.

So far, Hendry has fielded what he labeled as "normal calls" on some of the players in the Cubs system. A few will ask about someone like Rich Hill, and Hendry will say no, and the talks move on.

It's not as if the Cubs don't have any outfielders in the system. They head into Spring Training with Felix Pie and Sam Fuld expected to get the majority of playing time in center field. Tyler Colvin, the Cubs' top pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, is about a year away, Hendry said.

"In our position, with the team we think we can contend with, with a few more pieces, you don't say, 'Let's not get so and so because he might get in this guy's way,'" Hendry said. "Those things have a way of working out. I'm from the school of thought that my mentor, [special assistant] Gary Hughes taught, and that is that you can't have too many good players."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.