Kosuke Fukudome Goes Home Again

The best memory of Kosuke Fukudome as a Cub, the game-tying homer he hit in the ninth inning on Opening Day 2008. - Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The former Cubs outfielder is headed back to Japan, not to join his earlier team, the Chunichi Dragons; he'll be playing for the next three seasons for the Hanshin Tigers.

Former Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome turns 36 in April, and he has a new job, according to the Japanese website Sponichi (link is in Japanese).

He signed a three-year deal worth approximately $5.5 million with the Hanshin Tigers -- the team Kyuji Fujikawa just left to join the Cubs.

We've spilled a lot of bytes discussing Fukudome on this site. Let me leave Kosuke to what I truly hope, for him, will be a good ending to his baseball career, with this thought: Fukudome hit 34 home runs in 2003, 23 in 92 games in 2004, 28 in 2005, and 31 in 2006. A wrist injury in 2007 limited him to half a season. Supposedly, that injury was healed by the time the Cubs signed him.

But what if it wasn't, and what if that injury robbed him of that power? Fukudome never hit for the kind of power the Cubs had hoped, and that pretty much ruined his MLB career. Fukudome did have a decent on-base percentage for the Cubs (.369 in 1967 plate appearances) and played plus defense, at least in the first couple of years. He wasn't a bad player, just not worth anywhere close to the dollars the Cubs gave him.

It's entirely possible we'll see him again, and sooner than you think; Fukudome did play for his home country in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics, and maybe they'll have him on the roster again. (Incidentally, Fujikawa also played for Japan in both those WBCs; I haven't heard whether he'll be tapped to do that again.)

Best of luck to Kosuke. Seriously. That home run he hit in his very first major-league game against the Brewers will always be a fond memory. I wish we'd had more of those and fewer of the helicopter-swing strikeouts.

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