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.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.
Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.
Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.
Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.
The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.
Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.
The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.
Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.
Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.