Baseball teams dream of signing players who pay for themselves. It’s a rarity, of course, but a player like Hideki Matsui, as the Yankees learned over the past seven years, brings with him marketing opportunities from Japan which help off-set a portion of his contract. Because the Yankees generate revenue just from having Matsui on the team, they’re essentially getting a discount on him. That has to be an important factor in the Yankees’ decision on whether to bring him back, right?
As Ben noted, the Yankees could lose an estimated $15 million if Matsui signs elsewhere. I can’t verify the accuracy of that number, so let’s use it merely as a rough starting point. If the Yankees would lose $15 million by letting Matsui go, they could theoretically pay him $15 million per season and break even. Yet, apparently that will not factor into their decision, notes Buster Olney on Twitter.
Heard this: Matsui’s attraction as a marketable asset is no factor for the Yankees. It is about getting the right player at the right price.
I agree that the Yankees should look first for the right player. That’s the most important consideration of all. If they feel that Matsui isn’t the right player for the 2010 lineup, then his marketability should not be a factor. No one wants to lose the $15 million, but the Yankees have to consider what’s best for the team first.
If Matsui is the right player to hold down the DH spot in 2010, however, marketability should certainly play a role. If the Yankees get an essential $15 million bonus for having Matsui on the team, that should play into his salary. Not that he should get the whole $15 million. There are other factors involved, notably the luxury tax. Then there’s the idea of market value, and with quite a few DHs on the market and not too many free DH slots, Matsui’s market could resemble Bobby Abreu’s from last year.
So yes, Buster is right — and obviously so — that the Yankees want the right player at the right price. I’m just not sure that Matsui’s marketability will be “no factor” in the decision. It might not factor into whether or not he’s the right player, but if the Yankees decide he is, it will certainly factor into the price they pay for him.