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The 2012 Schedule and Return of Matsui

September 18, 2011

As of late, it seems every year the A’s begin their season by facing the Seattle Mariners. 2012 will be no different. What could be different is there is talk of that season beginning in Tokyo at the Tokyo Dome. The thinking of course being that Ichiro Suzuki is a big draw in Japan and many people would come out and attend to see Ichiro take on a club even as hapless as the Oakland Athletics. But in an article today in the San Francisco Chronicle Susan Slusser highlighted that there might be an additional draw for the fans in Tokyo, Hideki Matsui. She wrote,

“There is an increasingly likely chance that the A’s will open the 2012 season in Tokyo – and that their designated hittter still will be Hideki Matsui

…Were Matsui, a free agent, to return to Oakland – which appears to be a strong possibility – and if the A’s and Mariners agree to the trip, Matsui would be facing Japan’s other big-name position player, Seattle outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. That would be a major event in Japan. Matsui’s longtime Japanese team, the Yomiuri Giants, plays at the Tokyo Dome…

…The A’s many personnel decisions might depend on whether Major League Baseball makes a decision on the team’s stadium situation before free agency begins; if the A’s remain in limbo, their spending is likewise uncertain. Decision from MLB or no, however, Matsui is a player the club has strong interest in retaining, according to a team source, though for less than his current $4.25 million.”

This is just shocking. I think everyone expected that Matsui was here for this year and late season surge notwithstanding was likely to play elsewhere in 2012. This article comes out of nowhere sort of.

With the season winding down, Matsui is responsible for 0.8 WAR which as per Fangraphs is worth about $3.6M less than what the A’s are spending on him this season. Matsui will be 38 next year, his WAR totals which topped out in the high twos, have dropped precipitously despite relative health since 2009 when he posted 2.5 WAR, to 1.4 with the Angels last year to his 0.8 this year. At 38, the decline should do nothing but continue.

It isn’t clear what value Matsui brings to the Athletics. First off, assuming Josh Willingham departs, Matsui could play left field, but wouldn’t be your starting left-fielder. If Godzilla were your starting DH, it is unclear where that leaves Chris Carter who seems to deserve at least a shot to prove that the job should or shouldn’t be his. If Willingham were re-signed he seems best utilized as a designated hitter again leaving Matsui’s role unclear. Matsui has hit well against left-handed hitters this year, but his career splits are very even meaning he doesn’t even seem like a strong or applicable platoon type player.

I hope the A’s aren’t looking at re-signing Matsui just to make a splash at an opening weekend event in Tokyo. I can’t imagine Billy Beane or the rest of the front office would be so short-sighted, but to me it is very unclear what the value of re-signing Matsui would be. I like him a lot, he has been a fun player to watch but his bat has slowed, he reaches and flails at pitches he shouldn’t reach nor flail at, and the end is clearly very near for him. Let’s not continue the trend of signing those past their prime.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. elmaquino permalink
    September 18, 2011 5:25 pm

    I wouldn’t want Matsui back if I was an A’s fan, but he and Ichiro back in Japan WOULD be pretty cool.

    IDK if you’ve mentioned it or not, but do you think this Moneyball movie will be any good? (I as for your purely cinematic prediction.)

    • September 18, 2011 11:46 pm

      Matsui and Ichiro would’ve been more compelling several year ago, now I don’t know how exciting it’d be even out there.

      Aaron Sorkin did the writing for Moneyball – I have faith that he’ll take what doesn’t seem like it’d make a good movie into something cool.

  2. Don T permalink
    September 18, 2011 9:59 pm

    I agree that Matsui has little or no value to the A’s next year. Which means for certain they will sign him to another contract, perhaps multi-year. The A’s management exhibits signs of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. The A’s are destined to mediocrity. Unless ownership changes, they’ll be back in the playoffs when the Pope isn’t Catholic.

    • September 18, 2011 11:49 pm

      I don’t necessarily agree with that sentiment. I think Billy Beane has done a good job but the draft is to a degree a crapshoot and when it doesn’t work out for a team like the A’s that can be disastrous. I am a bit mystified by some moves from time to time and resigning Matsui would fall into that category. Of course everything depends on how much they sign him for, what they anticipate his role to be etc, but despite that it is unlikely I’d really think the move does much to benefit the club. The team is really hamstrung by a poor stadium and has been felled by prospects failing to become great, especially offensively. The free agent market doesn’t offer much (nor would they likely sign here) and the A’s lack captivating trade pieces. They truly are between a rock and a hard place, but you never know, that’s why they play the games.

  3. dKim permalink
    September 19, 2011 4:25 pm

    If Oakland manages to resign both Willingham and Matsui, don’t you think they would be able to rotate the 2 between LF and DH? I have no answer for the Carter conundrum.
    What do you think the roster will look like next season?

    • September 19, 2011 5:10 pm

      While they could rotate the two it leaves Carter and Taylor in a bit of a lurch. Perhaps Taylor moves to right? Then you have Allen and Barton competing for playing time at first.

      Not yet sure where I see the A’s 2012 lineup. There isn’t much out there to acquire at third base – a true need. The free agent outfielders aren’t particularly appealing and nor would they likely want to sign in Oakland. If the A’s traded Andrew Bailey or a pitcher better names become available to them maybe.

      It’ll depend a lot on the strategy regarding who they choose to retain. I’d retain DeJesus but see that as unlikely.

      • dKim permalink
        September 19, 2011 5:34 pm

        Do you think the A’s will/should resign Crisp? If so should it be at a discounted rate? I believe he said he likes playing for the A’s but he’s constantly hurt and has a noodle for an arm. Should Sweeney get a shot at CF? Taylor and/or Miller/Mitchell can play CF & RF right?
        How viable is it to sign a SS free agent that won’t commit half as many errors as Penny and hit a whole lot better? If not, can we move Sizemore over to SS and sign a 3B w/ pop? Cahill, Gonzalez, McCarthy, Harden, Moscoso for next years rotation?

      • September 20, 2011 5:26 pm

        I am opposed to re-signing Crisp. I think he is way too injury prone and not worth any sort of lengthy commitment. On a one-year contract it might not be terrible, but still I’d rather spend my money in another way. I think Sweeney would be a passable center fielder, his issues with a lack of power would not be so glaring in center and his arm would be an asset that might help make up for a shorter range.

        I don’t see the big bang for your buck coming from shortstop. I think corner outfield and third is where you can make the biggest improvement. I actually have no issues with Pennington at all. For the rotation, I think Gonzalez, Cahill, McCarhty, Harden and probably Ross is how things start out if I were to

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