The San Diego Padres are apparently making some progress with free agent third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. The 10-year Japanese infielder is coming off a career year and looking to parlay that into a big payday in the U.S. Reports early Monday morning in Japan from @Fullcountc2 (a Japanese baseball site) indicate that the Padres and Matsuda are in current dialogue with each other.
Matsuda hit 32 home runs and had 94 RBIs while walking 60 times and recording a .357 on base percentage last year. Each stat was a new career best for the 32-year-old. Matsuda also hit .287 on the season and had 22 doubles in 143 games. He is a right handed hitter and has shown a decent bat over his career in the Japanese League.
A.J. Preller and the Padres Director of Player Personnel Logan White both traveled to Japan and met with Matsuda last month around Thanksgiving time. The meetings were said to be positive and their appeared to be interest between both sides on an agreement.
While in Japan last month it was reported that the Padres and Matsuda’s representatives did not discuss financial terms. Perhaps the two are at that point now. It has been reported the Padres are prepared to offer him a one year deal with an option or a two-year deal. Matsuda seems excited about taking his game to the major league level. He was quoted as saying this to the Japanese media.
“To avoid regrets I’ve made the decision out of a desire to learn what I am worth. This is the only chance I will have to find out whether or not I can compete in the major leagues”
Matsuda has a ton of pride and seems determined to succeed, but there are real debates on how he will hit major league pitching. He was never considered a power hitter by any stretch of the imagination as his previous career high was 25 in 2011. A big factor is the home field of the Softbank Hawks is the Yafuoku Dome. It is a notorious hitters ballpark with shorten fences and Matsuda’s numbers were surely boosted by playing half his games there.
Former Japanese batting title winner and Padres assistant batting coach Alonzo Powell was quoted by the Japanese media as well. He reportedly advised Matsuda that Petco Park is not a hitters park and described the field as similar to that of the home field of the Chiba Lotte Mariners. Chiba Marine Stadium is well-known as being one of the most difficult places to hit a home run in the Japanese league.
Matsuda is described as an average to slightly above average fielder. He has won three gold gloves in the Japanese league and has mainly played third base, but has some inning logged in at first base and left field. His speed is average and his range is average. In reality he is a 32-year-old veteran and will have a hard time succeeding in the major leagues at shortstop or second base like some reports have indicated.
In his 10-year career he has a batting line of .277/.325/.477 and has hit 161 home runs while driving in 577 runs. He has also stolen 109 bases, but has been thrown out 51 times including 10 times last year in his 19 attempts. Not exactly the most fleet a foot on the base paths. However as a third baseman, that is not a skill usually needed by a major league team.
The Chicago White Sox and the Padres were reported as the main suitors for Matsuda. Jon Heyman reported this last week. The Japanese infielder will likely play in the U.S. this season.
White sox, padres among teams in on japanese free agent infielder Matsuda
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 8, 2015
The two franchises could be joined by other teams as free agents start to sign before spring training. It remains to be seen what it would take for Matsuda in terms of money and also what exactly he would bring to the table. The Padres are definitely looking in any and all directions for talent. You really have to applaud the team for doing its homework and being aggressive.
However Matsuda doesn’t look to bring much to the table and the team is already stacked with infielders like Yangervis Solarte, Cory Spangenberg, Alexi Amarista and Jose Pirela. Carlos Asuaje is also a candidate for some infield action, so it’s not exactly clear where Matsuda would fit in. The mysterious A.J. Preller has yet to acknowledge the team is interested in Matsuda to the media as well. So the drama continues.