Ken Davidoff penned a piece today looking at potential landing spots for Hideki Matsui. He’s an interesting case given the depressed market for designated hitters last off-season, so let’s look at his potential value.
Matsui’s wOBA is .379 this year, which ranks as his third best offensive season since arriving Stateside.. His BABIP is only .260 – last three years: .320/.392/.312 – and his walk rate is relatively static. His home run per fly ball rate, however, is a career high 18%. This is only challenged by his 2004 rate of 16%, and over the last three seasons his high is 12.8%. That inflation explains his .262 ISO, another career high. He’s 35-years-old and it’s not often you see players flip the power switch this late in their careers which should raise some caution flags on his ability to repeat such an outburst.
Matsui hasn’t played an inning of outfield this season. He also assumed the DH role most of the time for the Yankees last season and his last real exposure to the grass was in 2007 when he posted a -7.6 UZR. Matsui is probably a -10 < x < -15 defender in a corner outfield spot over a full season which all but limits him to DH work. Combining his limited defensive ability with a season that smells of fluke doesn’t make for an attractive package. Further, Matsui has dealt with some injury issues over the past few years. Knee swelling and eventually draining has been a reappearing issue since Matsui underwent left knee surgery in late 2008. Matsui offers it all: durability concerns, fielding issues, and a luck inflated offensive season? As last off-season showed us, teams don’t seem overly willing to pay the big bucks for players with his skill set anymore. He figures to average around 2 WAR per season over the last three years when 2009 comes to a wrap, and while that’s valuable, it’s hard to argue that it’s Matsui’s true talent level or expected contribution level heading forward. A few teams should be interested in Matsui, but there’s no reason he should earn anything close to his annual rates with the Yankees.