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.

  • al

    sayonara kosuke!

  • Andy

    The salary dump could give us the money to sign Maples, which is almost like receiving a top prospect in return.

  • die hard

    Seattle would love him to join Ichiro in outfield and then to take over next year. Hes 3 yrs younger and would fit in with owners plan to have star from their country on team…also Ichiro could DH twice a wk to give his legs a break and RF defense would not suffer

  • auggie1955

    Last season the Cubs were rumored to be trying to trade Fukudome to the Red Sox.
    J.D. Drew’s numbers have really fallen off this year, so let’s see if anything happens there.

  • Kerf

    I wonder if Washington would still consider using him in CF? It sucks that Bird got hurt, but sucks even more that it seemed almost a lock that we would be moving him to the nats. I’ve got to believe Fukudome’s next contract is going to be microscopic, expecially compared to the money he’s made so far.

  • Kerf

    Scratch that thought – just remembered how much his defense dropped off in CF

  • pfk

    Given they stand to get nothing at the end of the year, anything is better than nothing (brilliant aren’t I?). I must say, he is by far, the best defensive right fielder in Wrigley I have ever seen play for the Cubs.

    • Toosh

      Andre Dawson.

      • pfk

        Yep, Dawson was good and had a better arm but Fukudome plays that corner, side wall and the “Well” better than anyone and has more range. Dawson had bad wheels and it limited him a bit. The best I ever saw was Roberto Clemente. He’d get to everything and had a rocket arm that was laser accurate.

  • RY34

    dump him asap

  • MichiganGoat

    At his current rate he is a decent leadoff man, can play all outfield positions, and appears to finally understand how to be productive outside of April, BUT he is still considered risky so we can’t expect too much of a return.

  • TC

    This is largely a moot point, since no one will ever offwer him arbitration if it means giving him around $12M, but I’m almost positive that Fukudome has a clause in his contract where the team cannot offer him arbitration at the end of his contract.

    • Ace

      Now that you mention it, that sounds kind of familiar.

  • http://Bleachernation Ramy16

    I know this may sound crazy Ace..but how about a trade with the cross town rivals? Kosuke for Dayan Viencido there Cuban right fielder..younger with some pop in his Kenny Williams dumb enough to pull this off?

    • Ace

      Kenny Williams is generally pretty trade-savvy. I don’t think he’d give up much of anything for Fukudome.

  • http://BleacherNation Bric

    If memory serves, Fuk has a limited no trade clause that allows for a trade to only 9 teams without his concent. I remember the red Sox were possible and the Nats weren’t (at least at the time this last came up). Any insight about whether that NTC still applies and how the teams were determined?

    • Ace

      No real insight other than the fact that the contract could lay it out any number of ways (he picks X number of teams at the beginning of each season, or he picked X number of teams at the beginning of the contract), and no one but the contracting parties and their lawyers are likely to know the precise contours.

  • jb

    The reason you trade him is so that you can give his at bats to Colvin. If they trade him and I see Reed Johnson out there, I’m going to be pissed. Not that Reed isn’t a good player, but there is no reason he should be a Cub. He isn’t going to take the team to the next level and isn’t going to show you something different that you don’t know about him in this stage of the career.

    You can trade anyone you want but you need to have a plan which this organization has been lacking for over 100 years.