Mixed Emotions

Dec. 12 was a day of mixed emotions around the Cubs. That was the day they officially announced they signed Japanese star Kosuke Fukudome to a four-year deal believed to be work $48 million.

General manager Jim Hendry said the signing made the Cubs better because Fukudome is a left-handed-hitting right fielder who can hit for average, on-base percentage and power.

And as a bonus, the 30-year-old can steal bases, and he won four Gold Glove Awards in Japan.

But hours after bringing in Fukudome, the Cubs performed another transaction that wasn't as pleasant.

The Cubs did not tender Mark Prior a contract, and the 27-year-old right-hander became a free agent. The club severed ties with a player it selected No. 2 overall in the 2001 draft.

Prior was a "can't-miss" type of player who was already in the majors by 2002 and won 18 games for the 2003 Cubs team that made it to the National League Championship Series.

But arm injuries took their toll on him. He finally had shoulder surgery in April 2007, and he might not pitch in a major league game until next May 2008 at the earliest.

The Cubs tried hedging their bets by offering him a contract with an option year for 2009, which would have taken his first year of free agency away and allowed the team to keep him if he showed he could pitch again.

But those talks broke down, and the Cubs were not willing to wait for him to recover, play a part of a season and then potentially bolt. Prior was 42-29 with a 3.51 ERA and 757 strikeouts in 657 innings.

NOTES, QUOTES

--INF/OF Mark DeRosa, who spent most of 2007 at second base, is getting weary of the talk about the Cubs trying to acquire second basemen this offseason. DeRosa, who has two more years left on his contract, said he will do whatever the team wants him to do, but when he signed on for the 2007 season, it was with the understanding that he would be the regular second baseman.

--LHP Neal Cotts, who spent most of 2007 in the minor leagues, agreed to a one-year deal on Dec. 13. Cotts and LHP Carmen Pignatiello are the top two candidates to back up LHP Scott Eyre in the bullpen.

--CF Felix Pie continues to work on his hitting in the Dominican Republic. Unless the Cubs make a deal, Pie and Sam Fuld (who hit.402 in the Arizona Fall League) will battle it out for the starting spot in center field.

BY THE NUMBERS: .397 -- RF Kosuke Fukudome's lifetime on-base percentage in nine seasons in Japan.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "A lot of people feel all the numbers might go down or there will be a big adjustment period. I guarantee we're right on about his character. This guy wants to play here. He wants the action. He's looking forward to it. He plays with a very strong air of confidence. He knows how good of a player he is." -- Cubs GM Jim Hendry on signing Japanese star Kosuke Fukudome.

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