Japanese star Fukudome coming to Chicago to play for Cubs

Updated: December 12, 2007, 8:42 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

CHICAGO -- Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome and the Chicago Cubs reached a preliminary agreement Tuesday on a $48 million, four-year contract.

Kosuke Fukudome


The deal is subject to a physical, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made. The agreement could be finalized as early as Wednesday.

ESPN 1000 radio in Chicago first reported the agreement.

Fukudome was considered one of the best outfielders in Japanese baseball. The 30-year-old slugger was a key member of the Japan team that won the inaugural World Baseball Classic in March 2006.

He had surgery on his right elbow in August and sat out the Japan Series, but has 192 homers and a .305 batting average over nine seasons with the Chunichi Dragons, who won their first championship in 53 years on Nov. 2.

After becoming a free agent, Fukudome drew interest from the Cubs, San Diego Padres and White Sox.

He is expected to play right field for the Cubs, who traded outfielder Jacque Jones to Detroit this offseason and declined their contract option on veteran Cliff Floyd.

All-Star slugger Alfonso Soriano returns in left and speedy prospect Felix Pie is expected to take over in center after shuttling between the majors and minors this season. The Cubs hope Fukudome will provide the consistent left-handed bat they seek to go along with righties Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee.

Chicago won the NL Central title last season before being swept by Arizona in the first round of the playoffs.

Fukudome was the 2006 Central League MVP, batting .351 with 31 homers and 104 RBIs. He recently told the Dragons he wouldn't return next season, saying he wanted to move to the major leagues.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.