That’s phonetic Japanese for greeting someone warmly –- as in: "Hello, how are you, can you play right field, get on base and hit with at least little power?"

The Cubs are hoping for many assertive nods of agreement from Kosuke Fukudome, who brings good career numbers and a surgically repaired elbow from Japan for somewhere around $50 million over four years. He’s penciled in for right field, in front of new signage written in Japanese, but the Cubs have to have their fingers crossed that he can also play center field.

Adding a left-handed bat is supposed to be critical to improving the Cubs’ lineup, and it certainly can’t hurt. But without spending a week crunching numbers, my gut tells me the Cubs’ problem has more to do with how they swing the bat instead of which side they swing the bat from. Their big hitters are almost comical against pitchers who change speeds and throw breaking balls. No patience, no willingness to work the count, no real skills in hitting to the opposite field (which now comes under the heading of "situational hitting"). Maybe Fukudome can add some of those ingredients. Anybody remember the sacrifice fly, for example?

But now the question of the day is Mark Prior, and "whatever it takes" to get him signed should be approximately the tax rate on Fukudome’s deal. It’s all Monopoly money, anyway. A couple of years at $4 million a year is next to nothing in baseball’s steroid-inflated currency. In any event, it’s not good business to let a 27-year-old right arm just walk away with nothing in return, without even offering a reasonable deal with some chance of connecting. Baseball is all about risk with upside, and Prior’s arm has lots of upside that’s worth significant risk.

My own bias is always in favor of pitching, never giving it away if you don’t have to. Even if it spends half the season on the disabled list. Maybe I’m just a ****** for pitching, but a guy who won 18 games at age 23 always looks good to me, as long as his arm is still attached to his shoulder. Plus, last year’s results are essentially the best of what you’re going to see on the mound from Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis. Maybe Rich Hill still has some upside to go, but that staff as a whole is not likely to make big leaps over last year. Prior has more upside than anyone else the Cubs could move in or move up.

Pitchers and catchers report in two months. Ichiban. Domo arrigato.


One comment

  1. rmlong@kconline.com

    I, too, hope Kosuke can import some patience into the Cubs lineup. Seems we’ve been saying the same things about the hitters for years. Maybe Lou and Gerald Perry should make their hitters watch video of the Red Sox postseason. What a clinic in patient hitting those guys put on! No coincidence they walked away with the rings!

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