Cleveland acquired the outfielder from the Chicago Cubs for two prospects Thursday, one day after making an offer to the New York Mets for Beltran, who exercised a no-trade clause in his contract and was instead dealt to the San Francisco Giants.
"We're a better team than we were yesterday," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said, less than 24 hours after the injury-depleted Indians were no-hit by Ervin Santana and the Angels in a 3-1 loss. "Kosuke helps us offensively and defensively. Our goal is to improve our run scoring and run prevention and we will continue to pursue all avenues."
Fukudome is hitting .279 with three homers and 13 RBIs in 87 games this season.
The 34-year-old Fukudome received the news shortly before the Cubs' game in Milwaukee against the Brewers. He left a closed-door meeting with Cubs manager Mike Quade, then shook hands or exchanged hugs with what were suddenly former teammates.
Through interpreter Hiro Aoyama, Fukudome said he knew little about Cleveland.
"Lake Erie is right next to it," he said. "I know it looks like Chicago."
Fukudome said Cubs GM Jim Hendry approached him at the All-Star break about testing the trade market. He found out about Cleveland's interest a few days ago and signed off on a no-trade clause to make the deal happen.
"It was a difficult decision to make, not simply because I was here for a long time, but also it was a different league," Fukudome said. "My family told me that it was up to me. Whatever you want to do, that was the decision to make."
Triple-A right-hander Carlton Smith and Class-A outfielder Abner Abreu were shipped to the Cubs. Outfielder Travis Buck was designated for assignment to clear roster room in Cleveland, and the Indians also received cash. Fukudome is being paid $13.5 million in 2011.
"That is accurate," Antonetti said when asked if the Cubs are picking up most of the money due Fukudome, who signed a four-year, $48 million deal with Chicago as a free agent from Japan in 2008.
Antonetti declined any other specifics.
"He had a handful of teams listed and we were one of them," Antonetti said. "I think he realizes he is coming to a team with a chance to play in the postseason."
Cleveland trails first-place Detroit in the AL Central by two games, but has been hit hard with injuries. Outfielders Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo, two of the young team's proven players, are both on the disabled list until at least mid-August. Sizemore had hernia surgery and is rehabilitating a sore right knee. Choo is recovering from a broken left thumb.
Fukudome likely will see the most playing time in right field, then could shift to center when Choo returns. The Indians outfield is now laced with left-handed hitters, but Antonetti said he was more concerned with getting a solid player to help out rather than limit himself to acquire a much-needed right-hander to Cleveland's lefty-oriented lineup.
In his seventh year in the organization, Smith was 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA and two saves in 34 games, all in relief at Columbus. Abreu hit .244 with 12 homers and 35 RBIs at Kinston, but had 102 strikeouts and only 22 walks in 91 games.
"We realize that we needed to give up some players we like," Antonetti said. "Carlton is close to contributing at the major-league level. His fastball has good sink. Abner is very talented, has a lot of tools, and has a chance to become a very good player.
"We thought it was a deal we could make at a reasonable cost."
Two years ago, the Indians and Cubs completed a similar trade when Chicago sent veteran infielder Mark DeRosa to the Indians for three minor-league pitchers. DeRosa suffered an injury, the Indians fell out of contention, and he was traded to St. Louis in a deal that brought Cleveland its current All-Star closer, Chris Perez.