One of the worst kept secrets in trade rumor gamesmanship over the past two years is the fact that the Chicago Cubs would love to unload Kosuke Fukudome.

Last year, Fukudome was blocking Tyler Colvin, who was having a (relative) breakout season. This year, Fukudome isn’t blocking anyone, but is an expensive, impending free agent on a team near last place. But despite the efforts to find a taker, the Cubs have had no success.

Part of the problem is that Fukudome has never looked like more than a part-time player. That label, of course, could mean two things in Fukudome’s case: (1) he dominates righties but struggles against lefties; or (2) he dominates the early part of the season but struggles in the second half. Teams are only willing to pay so much for that kind of player, and, until recently, that meant a nothing prospect and a million bucks in salary relief. Understandably, the Cubs have blanched.

But could things be changing this year?

According to Gordon Wittenmyer, Fukudome is starting to attract “feeler” interest from contenders who are looking for help in the outfield and at the top of the order. Moreover, he suggests that, this time around, the Cubs might be able to get a decent prospect and a fair amount of salary relief.

Though no names are mentioned, I imagine would could speculate on the teams looking for outfield help and a good top of the order hitter. Indeed, most teams around .500 could probably use Fukudome, even if not as a starter. His defense alone provides significant value off the bench.

Fukudome, 34, is having one of his best years in the States with a .291/.400/.404 line in 245 plate appearances. He’s got a little less than $7 million left on his deal this year, which includes a limited no-trade clause that allows him to veto a prospective deal to one of a handful of teams (the list, to my knowledge, is unknown to the public).┬áStill, it’s probably unfair to expect much more than a B prospect, and even then, only if the Cubs eat a couple million of the dollars remaining on Fukudome’s deal.

But moving Fukudome, even at that level of return, is still the right move. There is almost no chance the Cubs seek to re-sign him at the end of the year, nor would they offer him arbitration in order to net a draft pick if he signs elsewhere (*if* he even qualified for compensation and *if* he declined the offer of arbitration). Given his $13.5 million salary this year, an offer of arbitration risks locking the Cubs into $12 to $13 million for Fukudome in 2012. That ain’t happening.



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