Posted at 3:19 a.m., Friday, December 7, 2007
Baseball: Giants interested in Yankees' Matsui
By Andrew Baggarly
San Jose Mercury News
How about Godzilla?
The Giants have spoken about trading for Hideki Matsui, the New York Yankees outfielder who brought that nickname with him from Japan in 2003. A Giants executive described talks as preliminary but substantive enough that the two clubs planned to speak again in the coming days.
The Giants didn't make any deals during the winter meetings; most agents and team officials wheeled their luggage out of the Opryland Hotel yesterday. But General Manager Brian Sabean was hopeful that the high volume of conversations here would lead to plenty of action before the holidays, at which time he hopes to address most major roster issues.
Sabean is inspecting every chance to revamp the lineup while keeping right-hander Tim Lincecum, who could be shipped to the Toronto Blue Jays at any time for outfielder Alex Rios.
Matsui was a surprising addition to the list of players that Sabean discussed here. The left fielder is a proven run producer who hit .285 (.367 on-base) with 25 home runs and 103 RBIs in 143 games last season. He also will turn 34 in June, is owed $13 million in each of the next two seasons and has a full no-trade clause.
A source familiar with Matsui's thinking said he probably would waive the no-trade provision out of deference to the Yankees' wishes, and would enjoy living in San Francisco.
But that's not the only curve in the road. Matsui also had arthroscopic right-knee surgery last month. While he is expected to recover fully, the Giants know there is no such thing as a minor knee procedure especially when it involves star left fielders.
Matsui is left-handed, which means he would be especially susceptible to a power outage at AT&T Park. The Giants prefer right-handed power.
Then there is the cost in players. The Yankees need relief arms and are one of several clubs interested in left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, whom sources expect the Giants to trade somewhere. While the Giants might agree to throw in right-hander Brad Hennessey, a match would be near to impossible if the Yankees insist on right-hander Brian Wilson, whom the Giants envision as their long-term closer.
The Yankees also need starting pitching and would love Lincecum, but the Giants are considering him only in the Rios deal. Noah Lowry could interest the Yankees, but Sabean hinted that the left-hander hasn't fetched any solid offers outside of San Diego, Arizona and Colorado.
"Without giving too much away, his interest is from teams I wouldn't necessarily trade him to," Sabean said. "I don't see us getting the value back."
Matsui would have value beyond his on-field contributions. He is a magnetic figure with a huge following because he was a top star with the Yomiuri Giants, the premier team in Japan. He would be a marketing dream in San Francisco because of its large Asian-American population, and would give the team star power in the first year of the post-Bonds era.
The Giants would prefer to acquire younger players, but Sabean acknowledged that his current trade discussions all involve established hitters. They tried to discuss major-league-ready players with no service time like Cincinnati's Jay Bruce, but determined that they weren't available.
"We're not interested in prospects or someone who's a year or two away," Sabean said. "They have to contribute and show their face next year."
The Giants are no longer interested in Baltimore's Miguel Tejada and aren't enthralled with the other big-salaried hitters on the trade market.
"We're not going to trade pitching for the sake of making a trade, even though the one scenario (with Toronto) is a unique baseball trade," Sabean said. "Our responsibility is to keep as much pitching intact as we can and yet change the lineup, and that's what the challenge has been."
The Giants will learn today whether third baseman Pedro Feliz will accept the club's arbitration offer. While his agents had been confident they would secure a multiyear deal elsewhere, a National League G.M. said he understood the market hasn't developed for Feliz.
"They've been pushing him hard on us," the official said. "I don't think there's much out there."
If Feliz accepts, the two sides can negotiate a one-year contract or allow an arbitrator to select a salary. The Giants wouldn't mind that scenario, since they value Feliz's defense and it would fill one of their major holes.
For the first time since 2001, the Giants selected a player in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft. They used the fourth overall pick on pitcher Jose Capellan, not to be confused with the right-hander the Colorado Rockies traded to the Detroit Tigers earlier this week.
The Giants' Capellan is a stocky left-hander with a good breaking ball who pitched for Boston's low-A club last season. He impressed Giants scouts who saw him in winter ball and will push left-handers Steve Kline and Jack Taschner in spring training. Last season, left-handed batters hit .318 against Kline and .316 against Taschner.
Unless the Giants keep Capellan on the major league roster all season, they must offer him back to Boston for the waiver price of $25,000.
The Giants lost left-hander Travis Blackley to Philadelphia in the major league phase of the draft and right-hander Joe Bateman to Milwaukee in the minor league phase. Neither loss was regrettable, a club official said.