With or without Hideki Matsui, Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin is looking forward to opening Major League Baseball’s 2012 season in Japan.
The Athletics and Seattle Mariners open the regular season with a two-game series at Tokyo Dome on March 28-29. Many hoped the series would feature a showdown between Matsui and countryman Ichiro Suzuki, but Melvin said the A’s likely won’t be re-signing Matsui, a 37-year-old free agent.
“Matsui was a great fit for us last year and we all loved having him on our team,” Melvin said at a press conference on Monday to promote the series. “But this year it doesn’t look like a fit for us based on the personnel we have going forward.”
In his first season with Oakland last year, Matsui hit a career-worst .251 with 12 homers and 72 RBI in 141 games. Where he’ll play in 2012 is a major story in Japan with speculation on everything from a return to the New York Yankees, a return to Japanese professional baseball or even retirement.
Seattle and Oakland had been scheduled to play in Japan in March 2003 when Melvin managed the Mariners, but the series was scrapped because of the start of the war in Iraq. The A’s will be the home team in both games this time around.
LET’S MAKE A DEAL
Players and teams started rushing to settle arbitration cases, a day before the sides were to swap proposed salary numbers.
Eleven players agreed to contracts, leaving 126 set to exchange figures after 142 filed for arbitration last week. About 100 more were expected to reach agreements before the sides submit proposals this afternoon for one-year contracts that are not guaranteed.
Among one-year contracts announced Monday were deals for Pittsburgh All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan ($4.1 million) and right-hander Charlie Morton ($2,445,000), Detroit right-hander Rick Porcello ($3.1 million) and left-hander Phil Coke ($1.1 million), Kansas City second baseman Chris Getz ($937,500) and catcher Brayan Pena ($835,000), New York Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes ($3.2 million), Los Angeles Angels third baseman Alberto Callaspo ($3.15 million), Milwaukee outfielder Nyjer Morgan ($2.35 million) and Washington catcher Jesus Flores ($815,000).
In a deal not yet announced, San Francisco outfielder Angel Pagan agreed at $4.85 million.
Among free agents, oft-injured reliever Joel Zumaya and Minnesota agreed to an $850,000, one-year contract and Philadelphia and pitcher Joel Pineiro agreed to a minor league contract.