With the World Series shifting to Philadelphia for the next three games and the designated hitter not in play, the Yankees are facing a decision about what to do with Hideki Matsui.
Matsui was one of the team’s best hitters during the regular season, batting .274/.367/.509 with 28 homers and 90 RBIs in 142 games, and after last night’s go-ahead blast off Pedro Martinez he’s now 10-for-36 (.278) with two homers in the playoffs.
However, because of knee problems Matsui hasn’t played the outfield for a single inning all season, and he’d have to dust off his glove and take the bags of ice off his knees to get into the starting lineup for Games 3, 4, and 5. Here’s what manager Joe Girardi said when asked if using Matsui in the outfield was an option in Philadelphia:
That’s something we’re going to have to talk about. We’ll see how he’s doing. We’ll have to see. We’ll make a decision when we get there. We have all day to think about it.
For his part, Matsui said: “If the manager decides to put me in the outfield, then I’m going to make sure that I am ready for that.” Nick Swisher has been so awful in the playoffs that Girardi benched him in favor of Jerry Hairston Jr. last night, which is an extreme enough measure to make me think that the Yankees skipper is probably leaning toward using Matsui in the outfield for at least one or two of the games in Philadelphia.
Matsui could be a disaster out there after his complete lack of action defensively, but if you’ve given up on Swisher to the point that you’re willing to start Hairston in right field for a World Series game … well, then you’re probably willing to role the dice on Matsui’s legs, right? Of course, with the way Girardi has tinkered and micro-managed his way through the playoffs it wouldn’t be surprising if Matsui, Hairston, and Swisher each get a start, and benching the slumping Johnny Damon probably isn’t out of the question either.
The Marlins are intent on adding one of the three best relievers available on the free agent market, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports. Those three, of course, are Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon.
As Ashley noted earlier, Melancon is reportedly fielding multiple four-year offers in excess of $60 million. The price tags for Chapman and Jansen are likely to match or exceed that. The Marlins haven’t typically been eager to whip out the checkbook for free agents but with the bullpen being the name of the game in baseball these days, GM Michael Hill may feel the need to match his rivals.
The Nationals, Giants, Yankees, Cubs, and Dodgers are the teams most often linked to the “big-three” group of relievers, so it won’t be easy for the Marlins.
A.J. Ramos handled the closer’s role for the Marlins this past season and did an admirable job, saving 40 games with a 2.81 ERA and a 73/35 K/BB ratio in 64 innings. There’s no doubt, though, that Chapman, Jansen, or Melancon would represent a significant upgrade in the ninth inning.
C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Reds manager Bryan Price is likely going to use a trio of pitchers in the closer’s role: Raisel Iglesias, Tony Cingrani, and Michael Lorenzen. At RedsFest on Saturday, Price said:
I’d say right now that we have a series of guys that I’m comfortable with in the ninth inning and that would include (Raisel) Iglesias, (Tony) Cingrani and (Michael Lorenzen). Should we stay with this format – which I intend to do – all three of those guys and maybe more could have opportunities in save situations. At this point in time, there’s no defined closer. There are multiple options and I’d like to stick with the philosophy that we’re going to have our multi-inning guys, so we’re going to need multi-closers.
This seems to be part of the new bullpen zeitgeist in which managers are shying away from strictly-defined roles for their relievers. Indians manager Terry Francona’s postseason success using Andrew Miller likely had some degree of influence on Price’s willingness to go with a three-headed giant.
Iglesias started the 2016 season in the Reds’ rotation but missed two months with an injury, then moved to the bullpen in late June. Price put him in the closer’s role down the stretch in September. The right-hander overall finished the season with a 2.53 ERA and an 83/26 K/BB ratio in 78 1/3 innings.
Cingrani battled control issues in his 63 innings of work this past season, finishing with a 4.14 ERA and a 49/37 K/BB ratio. He’s left-handed, though, and gives Price some matchup flexibility in the late innings.
Lorenzen impressed in his first full season as a reliever, ending the year with a 2.88 ERA and a 48/13 K/BB ratio in 50 innings. The right-hander uses a fastball that sits around 96 MPH on average along with a cutter and slider.