- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer
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Free agent outfielder Kosuke Fukudome plans to announce late Monday night U.S. time whether he will play in Japan in 2008 or pursue one of several offers from Major League Baseball clubs, his agent told ESPN.com.
The Nikkansports newspaper reported Saturday that Fukudome has turned down a lucrative multiyear offer from the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants and will play in America next season. But agent Joe Urbon said the report was premature, and that Fukudome is still conferring with his family in Nagoya, Japan, in anticipation of his decision.
"If the report was accurate, you would have seen quotes from the player or the [Yomiuri] club," Urbon said. "He hasn't made up his mind yet. When he does make up his mind, the first point of communication will be to the clubs in Japan."
The Chicago Cubs and White Sox, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres are among the clubs interested in Fukudome, a .305 career hitter with 192 home runs and a .397 on base percentage in 1,074 games for the Chunichi Dragons.
The Dragons, Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants have all made offers to Fukudome in Japan. While the outfielder's final choice has apparently come down to Yomiuri or the United States, Urbon said Fukudome wants to inform all three Japanese clubs of his intentions first-hand out of "respect for the process."
"I'm not going to speculate on his mindset," Urbon said. "I'm very optimistic that the opportunity here is a very good one for him and that he'll have a lot of success. But he also has a great opportunity in Japan. He's from there, and it would be a very comfortable decision for him to stay."
Although Fukudome is not expected to receive a deal close to Torii Hunter's five-year, $90 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the market for other prominent outfielders has begun to take shape recently. Andruw Jones agreed to a two-year, $36.2 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Jose Guillen signed a three-year, $36 million deal with Kansas City last week.
Fukudome hit .351 with 31 homers and 104 RBIs in 2006 to win the Most Valuable Player award in the Japanese Central League. He appeared in only 81 games in 2007 before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery.
Jerry Crasnick covers Major League Baseball for ESPN.com.