Chunichi Dragons outfielder Kosuke Fukudome said Monday he has decided to become a free agent.
Not only major league clubs but also Japanese teams such as the Yomiuri Giants and the Hanshin Tigers are expected to compete for Fukudome's services while he is unlikely to stay with Chunichi, according to baseball sources. Negotiations open Wednesday.
''I've wanted to know how I am perceived by others. I haven't decided to leave the team or go overseas,'' Fukudome said at a press conference in Nagoya.
The 30-year-old Fukudome is a career .305 hitter with 192 homers and 647 RBIs in nine seasons with Chunichi.
He won Central League batting titles with a .343 average in 2002 and a .351 average in 2006 and was named the league MVP last year.
''One of the reasons my decision came this late is my feelings about my Dragons teammates and fans after nine years,'' Fukudome said. ''I would like to listen to all teams hoping to strike a deal with me. No teams have stood out yet.''
On Nov. 5, Chunichi offered Fukudome the options of a one-year contract for an unchanged 385 million yen and a four-year, 1.7 billion yen deal, but he was undecided.
Fukudome had surgery on his right elbow in August and was limited to just 81 games, missing Chunichi's Japan Series triumph.
He played a key role in helping Japan win the inaugural World Baseball Classic last year in the United States.