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« White Sox Preview: Part Two -- Who's on Third? Noah's Recovery Stays Ahead of Schedule »

Cubs Tue Jan 25 2011

Cubs Preview: Part Two -- Fukudome & Soriano

Thumbnail image for cubs.gifPart of a series previewing the 2011 Cubs.

After the 2006 season Cubs general manager Jim Hendry went on a spending spree the likes of which Cubs fans have never seen before. Contracts were handed out like candy on Halloween, thus putting a financial choke hold on any future acquisitions. The good news is that a good majority of those bad contracts will be off the book at the end of the 2011 season. Until then the Cubs have to make the best of it.

Kosuke Fukudome and Alfonso Soriano are being paid ungodly sums of money and haven't exactly lived up to their expectations.

The initial expectations for these two were through the roof. Fukudome was touted as the next Ichiro Suzuki, but after a stellar start in 2008, his first MLB season, he slipped into a troubling pattern: He tends to explode out of the gate, then plummet into a June slump, then level off at mediocrity in the second half.

Now the question is can he produce in the final year of his four-year, $48 million deal? There is always the possibility he'll have a break out year, but there is no guarantee. His age -- 34 in April -- suggests a downward trend from last year's average numbers. Plus, with the emergence of Tyler Colvin his playing time could be limited. Maybe that will serve as motivator for him. At least he bats left-handed. You can never have too many lefties.

Like Fukudome, Soriano was expected to be one thing and turned out to be the complete opposite. The Cubs paid for a 40-40 guy and a 20-20 guy. They are not getting their $136 million worth, not in the least bit. But he's here for another four years, so fans are going to have to accept Soriano's limitations. He can carry the offense for weeks at a time, but he also can drive fans nuts with his defensive miscues and mental errors. In the past three seasons, he has an Adjusted OPS of 104. (An average player is 100.)

Soriano turned 35 three weeks ago, so the trend lines are expected to go down for him too this season. But it definitely will help if he can stay healthy. Last year, he played in 147 games, which was the most since joining the team in 2007. He did cut down on the defensive miscues in the outfield with only seven errors last year.

It's hard to find a national observer who expects much from either of these overpaid outfielders, but the Cubs and their fans have to hope for the best. Maybe Fukudome has a big contract year. Maybe hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo can help Soriano turn back the clock to his all-star season in 2007.

Hey, they're due for a big year, right?

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