Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sayonara, Hideki-San

According to several sources, Hideki Matsui and the Angels have agreed to a one-year deal worth $6.5 million that will be finalized when the 35-year-old slugger passes a physical.

"I can confirm that we are in serious discussions with the Angels," agent Arn Tellem said last night. "I have no further comment."

If Matsui passes the physical, not a slam dunk considering he has undergone off-season surgery on each knee in the last two winters, the Yankees will be faced with filling a productive hole in the middle of their order.

Through Tellem, Matsui recently informed the Yankees he didn't want to wait to see what the club did with fellow free agent Johnny Damon. The Yankees informed Tellem that DH wasn't as high a priority as improving the pitching staff -- starter or reliever -- or left field.

Fearful of being left without a team, Matsui turned to the Angels, who will not bring back DH Vladimir Guerrero.

Last week at the Winter Meetings, Angels GM Tony Reagins was lukewarm when asked his interest in Matsui, who didn't play an inning in the outfield this past season because of his surgically repaired knees.

Appealing to the Angels is that Matsui believes he can play the outfield, something the Yankees publicly said he wouldn't do if he returned to The Bronx, where he spent seven seasons in which he appeared in the World Series in the first (2003) and last (2009) with much different results.

As much as the Yankees loved Matsui's production and popularity in the clubhouse, they have concerns his knees won't hold up as well as they did this past season when the left hinge had to be drained twice.

And GM Brian Cashman has explained that improving the pitching staff and finding a left fielder are priorities over filling the DH spot. (story courtesy of the NY Post)

Well I guess the allure of coming back to be a part of a back-to-back championship-winning team, forever etching his name into Yankees lore, being beloved by fans from this generation and subsequently being invited back to every Yankee Old Timers' Day until the end of time, and never having to pay for a meal in NYC ever again wasn't appealing enough to old Hi-dek. In the end, the allure of getting the chance to play the outfield and simultaneously blow out both his knees, thus ending his career as a baseball player and as a bipedal human who can walk normally, was just too much to pass up.

Hey, to each his own. Everybody says their ultimate goal in sports is to win a championship; for Matsui his goal must have literally been to win "A" championship because with the losses of Lackey and Figgins and the addition of Cliff Lee to Seattle's rotation, Anaheim's chances of even contending for a title next year aren't looking too good.

You have to wonder what is going through Tony Reagins' head if a week ago he was lukewarm on making this deal because Matsui hasn't played the outfield since 2007, and then today it's stated that Matsui's "ability" to play the outfield was appealing to the Angels. I'm not joking when I say that I think an arthritic, 80-year-old woman in a power chair from the Scooter Store can play the outfield better than Matsui at this point in his career; the Yankees knew that, which is why they put him lower on the to-do list beneath re-signing Pettitte, trading for Granderson, and re-signing Johnny Damon, so what do the Angels, a team who have no inside knowledge of Matsui and his health, know that the Yankees don't?

Basically this was a panic move by the Angels to replace their loss in offensive production that comes with losing Figgins and Vlad. When the Lackey-to-Boston deal became official yesterday, bolstering the offense became more of a priority for them since there isn't much left out there to help them improve their 2010 pitching staff and replace Lackey in the rotation. Unfortunately they let Matsui's numbers from last year blind them to the fact that putting him in the outfield like he wants will effectively eliminate those numbers when it results in him spending significant time or the remainder of the season on the DL.

Matsui is still an above-average Major League, but he is nothing more. And in today's game you have to have flexibility in your lineup. Matsui was a great Yankee: quiet and polite in front of the media, by all accounts a great teammate, and someone who went about his job every day rain or shine, hurt or 100%, putting up damn good numbers along the way. He'll be missed by his teammates and fans but the bottom line is, with his body breaking down at an alarming rate over the last 2 years, it is too much of a risk for the Yankees to bring him back when there are more appealing options at DH.

If he truly believes he can play the outfield, then God bless him; it's good to have confidence. But I think that experiment is going to end badly for both he and the Angels, and having those ticking time bombs for knees on somebody else's roster next season makes winning 28 that much easier for the Bombers when it's something they don't have to worry about.

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