The Hanshin Tigers have dropped out of the hunt for free agent outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, club president Nobuo Minami said Tuesday.
''Although we would still confirm with his agent, we determined that we are in a difficult situation as a result of our information gathering,'' Minami said.
Minami was attending a meeting of representatives from baseball's 12 teams.
Hanshin offered a four-year contract worth an estimated 2 billion yen when the club met with the 30-year-old Fukudome in Osaka on Nov. 16.
Hanshin's withdrawal left the Yomiuri Giants and major league clubs as the remaining bidders for the 2006 Central League MVP.
''I haven't heard anything, so I don't even know if it's true,'' Fukudome said. ''I'll have to contact my agent.''
Hanshin will now shift its focus to the acquisition of a new foreign player. Minami revealed that negotiations have already begun with outfielder Lew Ford, who spent the past five seasons with the Minnesota Twins.
Ford was limited to 55 games this year and hit .233 with three homers and 14 RBIs. The 31-year-old is a career .272 hitter with 32 homers and 172 RBIs in 494 major league games.