While Japanese players are eligible for Rookie of the Year honors, they often come with much higher expectations than rookies. As evidence, scapegoat-du-jour Kosuke Fukudome has 3 years, $38MM left on his contract. That is a large commitment to a first year player who struggled more like a traditional rookie than delivering like a high-profile Japanese import.
Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune says what to do with Fukudome is at the top of the Cubs offseason to do list. Says Rogers,
"According to scouts, Fukudome would have no value if Hendry tried to shop him. He isn’t going to go back quietly and resume his career with the Chunichi Dragons, walking away from his deal with the Cubs. That would send a terrible signal as teams around the majors become more aggressive in pursuing players from Asia. One scout interviewed Saturday suggested a course of action that could be tough to swallow.
’He has to go to the minors,’ the scout said. ’He has to get rid of all those habits, pulling out on pitches, collapsing. He’ll never hit the way he’s hitting now, and this is a tough place to work out your problems. Always has been.’"
Here we find the expected risk associated with giving large contracts to unproven commodities. It’s obvious Fukudome needs to make adjustments to big league pitching; however, his contract prevents the club from treating him as they should: like a rookie.
Fukudome put up .257-.359-.379 with 10 homeruns, 25 doubles, and an underwhelming 58 RBI. With a career OBP just under .400 in Japan, disappointment lies primarily in his .359 OBP and the inability to adjust and remain the tablesetter he was in May. Fukudome finished with a stat line less than that of a $12.5MM player and more akin to a rookie. As Rogers points out, Jim Hendry might need to treat him like one.