Japanese Star OF Fukudome, Cubs Agree to Four-Year Deal

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

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

The deal is subject to a physical, which is expected to take place next week.

The 30-year-old slugger was considered one of the best outfielders in Japanese baseball. Fukudome 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.

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

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 outfielder Cliff Floyd.

Meanwhile, Aaron Rowand agreed to a five-year, $60 million contract with the San Francisco Giants yesterday, giving the club the starting center fielder it sought.

Rowand, 30, is coming off his best season, earning his first Gold Glove award and all-star selection while helping the Phillies to the NL East title. He batted .309 with career bests of 89 RBI, 105 runs, 189 hits, 45 doubles and 27 home runs in 161 games.

While Giants Manager Bruce Bochy had said Rajai Davis would get a chance to earn the job in spring training, Rowand was brought in to start in center. That means Dave Roberts likely will shift from center to left field to replace departed home run king Barry Bonds, and Randy Winn will stay in right while Davis and some of the other young outfielders share time as reserves.

Rowand is expected to bat fifth.

"Aaron is an all-around player who is coming into his prime and helps us check off two boxes -- an extremely talented defensive center fielder and a middle-of-the-order presence," General Manager Brian Sabean said. "His ability in center field definitely plays to our ballpark and will help provide more stability to our pitching staff." . . .

Left-hander Andy Pettitte, 35, and the New York Yankees agreed to a one-year, $16 million contract. The move was a formality after Pettitte decided to pitch for the Yankees rather than retire, then accepted the team's offer of salary arbitration. . . .

Chris Gomez, a 15-year veteran utility infielder who split last season between the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians, signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

-- From News Services

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