Matsui Still Possesses Value

For the second time in two winters, Hideki Matsui will be hitting the open market. In his age 36 campaign with the Angels, Matsui hit .274/.361/.459, good for a 125 wRC+. That performance is right in line with Matsui’s play with the Yankees in his final three years. In 558 plate appearances in 2010, that comes out to 1.9 WAR as the Angels’ primary DH.

Seeing as the vast majority of designated hitters finished with 1.0 WAR or fewer in 2010, that makes Matsui one of the top designated hitters in the league. With David Ortiz‘s option picked up by the Red Sox, Jim Thome has to be considered the prize of the DH market, but Matsui is right up there with Johnny Damon, Vladimir Guerrero, and Russell Branyan for second.

Matsui did see some decline in his skills last season. The discipline is still there, as Matsui recorded his fifth straight walk rate above 10%. He also slugged 21 home runs with a .185 ISO. But Matsui’s strikeout rate ballooned to 20%, up from 16% a year ago and 13% for most of his MLB career. This should concern teams, as strikeout rate is typically quick to stabilize, and the trend of less and less contact makes sense given Matsui’s advanced age. It’s possible that his bat is slowing down – for the first time in his career, Matsui posted a pitch type linear weight value below +1 per 100 fastballs seen – but that’s speculation that would need to be corroborated by a scout and is just one possible explanation.

Only some American League teams are set at the DH position. Baltimore has Luke Scott, Oakland has Jack Cust, Kansas City has Billy Butler and Kila Ka’aihue, and Cleveland has Travis Hafner. The rest of the league has at least some uncertainty if not an outright opening at the position. Even though Matsui’s only plausible role is now that of a designated hitter, he does that job well enough to deserve a raise over the $6 million he received last year.

A team shooting for a playoff berth should be willing to spend the $9 million or so that Matsui’s play is worth on the open market for one season. Even a bit of an overpay on a one year contract could be justified, as I feel that in some cases, a team may be willing to pay for the luxury of avoiding commitment on a second season. Right now, the most plausible destinations appear to be Chicago (to replace Mark Kotsay), Detroit (to replace the departing Johnny Damon), or Texas (if Vladimir Guerrero doesn’t return). Outside of the five teams listed above, though, I would not be surprised by any AL team making a play for Matsui’s talents.



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Larry Smith Jr.
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

I actually advocate his coming to Detroit. He’s a lefty, which is something the Tigers are missing. Given his age and the aforementioned ballooning strikeout rates he is something of a risk, but I think he’s a lesser risk than Guerrero. I’ve noted in other comments that the Tigers DH play has been laughably pathetic the last couple of seasons. Even if Matsui takes a step back he’d likely represent an improvement over what the Tigers have offered at the position in recent seasons.

phoenix
Guest
phoenix
5 years 8 months ago

mariners are in the same boat. any production is better than what they have. but the tigers could bring magglio back as the DH, and he has expressed interest in returning.

Forrest Gumption
Member
Forrest Gumption
5 years 8 months ago

You would have to think the influx of aging sluggers into the market spells the end of Matsui as a full time player. He’s aging very quickly and now has to battle against not only the players mentioned, but also Lance Berkman, Manny Ramirez & Paul Konerko. I also question exactly how many positions are even open, to use your list:

KC: Butler/Kila
Oak: Cust
Clev: Hafner
Balt: Scott
Bost: Papi
NYY: Posada
Tor: Lind/Snider

That leaves open positions for the Rays, Twins, White Sox, Tigers, Rangers, Angels & Mariners. Thats 7 jobs for Manny, Thome, Vlad, Konerko, Berkman, Damon, Branyan….all of whom are better options than Matsui. Not to mention Giambi, Guillen, Sweeney, Hawpe, Kotsay, Blalock and every teams’ internal options. Matsui might be finished in MLB and head back to Japan to finish up his career unless he wants to sign for $2MM or something…

phoenix
Guest
phoenix
5 years 8 months ago

i disagree. he will make well over 2MM. maybe not the 9MM projected in the article, but another year of 6MM is pretty likely. Berkman fell off a cliff this year, guillen played worse and has so many club house issues and now HGH issues that he’s virtually done, sweeney doesn’t have matsui’s power, hawpe has been falling off recently, kotsay… just… that one is ridiculous, blalock is not on the A list for DH’s at all, and giambi’s stock has been tanking the last couple years. Vlad (even if he isn’t likely to repeat) played well this year, konerko and thome had great years and damon, while he can (kinda) play outfield, doesn’t have the power that matsui has and has lost most of his speed. Manny will find a job, even with the injuries, because he still produced when healthy. in short, I would put matsui at the 5th best DH on the market behind thome, konerko, manny and vlad. So no, I do not think that he is done and that he will make only 2MM next year, but maybe he won’t earn up to 9MM.

Alireza
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Berkman can still play 1B very well, so no need to lock him into a DH job. Branyon and Konerko aren’t great, but they aren’t Adam Dunn either and can carry gloves. Damon can’t throw, but he can use his speed to hide in LF. I won’t comment on how Manny’s fielding has always been underrated, given that his leg issues suggest he should transition to full time DH.

Cyrus
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Yup I too caught that. Konerko, Victor Martinez, and Berkman are also there. Blue Jays like Berkman but do not have the price probably so verry likely he will go to LAA. He will not get more than 5 million as this year’s FA market has too many DH’ers. He will need to settle for a 3 million dollar deal and hopefully more than 1 yr.

this guy
Guest
this guy
5 years 8 months ago

Rangers need to jump on this. If nothing else, the Giants exposed the Rangers’ right handedness. Matsui was good for an 868 OPS vs righties last year. That was only roughly 70 less than Hamilton vs righties when playing on the road.

Cyrus
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Yup I see him in Tex better in the 6th hole with Cruz and Kinsler moving up. and times battling 5th so you have Kinsler,Murphy,Catcher, Moreland.

Jon S.
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

A lot of teams basically treated DH as a throwaway position last year, and many of them suffered for it (I’m looking at you, Mariners). I expect more interest in full time DHs this year.

That said, I hope the Mariners sign Matsui. Ichiro and Godzilla on the same team would be great for further increasing the Ms Japanese fanbase. And they seriously need an above average hitter not named Ichiro. Seriously.

Claudine Leston
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

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