Busy Week Opens Doors for Youngsters

The Cubs traded outfielders Jacque Jones and Craig Monroe on back-to-back days, Nov. 12-13. Chicago also parted ways with Cliff Floyd earlier in the offseason.

That leaves a pool of youngsters -- Felix Pie, Sam Fuld, Matt Murton and even infielder Ronny Cedeno -- as the current front-runners to take over the center and right field spots next to left fielder Alfonso Soriano.

But it's a pretty good bet that there will be someone else in the mix.

General manager Jim Hendry will be on the lookout for an outfielder and left-handed hitter via either free agency or a trade.

The Cubs are said to be interested in Japanese free agent outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, a lifetime .305 hitter in Japan, who is also a left-handed hitter.

Hendry is not making any public statements about interest in the Japanese star, but when asked what position Fukudome could play, Hendry said: "He could play anywhere in the outfield for any club."

Cubs manager Lou Piniella is impressed with Fukudome.

"Our people feel he is a nice cross between (Hideki) Matsui and Ichiro (Suzuki)," Piniella was quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times. "That's a pretty nice combination. Our scouts feel he could hit on any major league club second through sixth."


--OF Craig Monroe was traded to Minnesota on Nov. 13 for a player to be named. The Cubs acquired Monroe during the stretch drive in 2007, but he didn't have much of an impact with the club, hitting .204 with one homer and four RBIs. He was left off the playoff roster.

--INF Omar Infante was acquired from the Tigers in a trade for OF Jacque Jones on Nov. 12. Infante is capable of playing various infield and outfield positions and could push Ryan Theriot for the starting shortstop spot in spring training.

--RHP Mark Prior was taken off the 60-day disabled list. Prior missed the 2007 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. The Cubs are still mulling whether or not to tender him a contract.

--RHP Angel Guzman was removed from the 60-day disabled list. Guzman, who has a history of arm injuries, was in the rotation briefly in 2007, but he might become a candidate for the bullpen in '08.

--RHP Kerry Wood's window for his exclusive negotiating rights with the team ran out on Nov. 12, but the Cubs are confident they can still work out a deal with him. Wood, a longtime starter, was moved to the bullpen due to numerous arm injuries. The Cubs want him back as a reliever, but he could test the market to see if any teams are interested in having him return to the rotation.

BY THE NUMBERS: .305 -- The career batting average of Kosuke Fuukudome, a Japanese star the Cubs are reportedly interested in.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He always knew the possibility existed." -- Cubs general manager Jim Hendry on trading OF Jacque Jones. Jones reportedly had requested a trade last offseason, and Chicago almost dealt him to Florida in the middle of the 2007 campaign.

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