With the offseason in full swing, the Milwaukee Brewers have certainly had their fair share of ups and downs. One week, they lose both Francisco Cordero and Scott Linebrink, then find themselves with a surplus of quality bullpen arms the next. One area the Brewers haven’t been forced to focus on during the Hot Stove months has been the offense, with the exception of Jason Kendall. The Cubs and the Astros, however, who had comparable offensive units to the Brewers in 2007, have had different thought-processes. They’ve swayed there attention to adding another big name slugger, perhaps feeling they must out-hit there opposition rather than out-pitch them to be successful in 2008. And this week they certainly added some of that desired batting moxy, not cheaply of course, with Kosuke Fukudome (Cubs) and Miguel Tejada (Astros).
The Cubs, who have been searching for a replacement for slugging-outfielder Jacque Jones ever since he was traded by the team Nov. 12, must not have felt satisfied with what the MLB free agent crop had to offer, and decided to pursue talent on the international stage. Outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, left, a member of the Chunichi Dragons, was their #1 target, drawing interest from many others teams as well. Now, after accepting the Cubs reported 4 year, $48 million dollar deal, the Japanese star’s name will not only be penciled into the starting lineup (in rightfield), but will be a magnet for media-attention and endorsement deals in the Windy City, as he is the only foreign player on the Cubs roster. The 30-year old played nine years in the NBP, Japan’s highest level baseball league, averaging better than 21 homers per campaign. With Alfonso Soriano, Derrick Lee, and Aramis Ramirez already in the fold, the Chicago Cubs look to have as potent a lineup as any in 2008.
The Astros, another growing threat in the NL Central, made a rather suprising counter move Wednesday, acquiring shortstop Miguel Tejada in a 6-player deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Houston will essentially give up their future rotation, dealing pitchers Matt Albers, Troy Patton, and Dennis Sarfate to the Orioles, along with outfielder Luke Scott and minor leaguer Mike Costanzo. Tejada, 31, who hit 34 homers and drove in 150 in his best season with the Orioles (2004), will join Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman, and Hunter Pence to create another frightening lineup within the division.
One thing is clear: the Cubs and ‘Stros clearly want to win now and will both undoubtedly field pennet contenders in 2008. Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin should be thanking his lucky stars he shored up his pen before watching them groove fastballs to each respective teams’ studs.