Ken Rosenthal (via MLBTR) mentioned in his column today that the Yanks and Mariners talked briefly about a Hideki Matsui for Jarrod Washburn swap earlier this offseason, but couldn’t find a match because of the difference in salaries (Matsui’s owed $2.65M more than Washburn this year). I’m going to assume this discussion took place when it seemed like there was little chance Andy Pettitte would return, and perhaps even before the CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett pickups. You may remember that the Yanks were pretty close to acquiring the lefty before the trade deadline last year, but the M’s put a stop too the move because they wanted a top prospect in return.
I’ve been against trading Matsui because I think he’s more useful to the Yanks than anything they could get in return. Just look at Washburn, he kinda sorta qualifies as an innings eater – he’s averaged ~178 IP over the last three years – but he’s been below average during that time, posting between a 4.72 and 4.78 FIP and averaging +1.6 WAR (replacement level is set at two wins below league average, so Washburn was about half a win below average). With two bum knees, a full no trade clause and $13M coming to him, Matsui’s understandably not the most desirable trade target.
To the Yankees however, Matsui represents a bit of an upside play at DH. While dealing with knee issues that limited him to 287 of 486 possible games over the last three years, he hit .291-.372-.469 with a ~.365 wOBP. Do you know what Bobby Abreu hit last year? .296-.371-.471 with a .348 wOBP. It’s entirely reasonable to expect Matsui to replace Abreu’s production this year if he stays healthy, which he has a much better chance of doing as a DH.
Would it be nice to see a guy like Manny Ramirez or Adam Dunn occupying the DH spot? Sure, but given the Yanks current roster construction that’s extremely unlikely. Let’s give Hit-deki a chance, he just might surprise us.