Why that guy keeps asking about Hideki Matsui

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I’ve had a little bit of fun at the expense of our friends in the Japanese media over the past couple of days, but it’s time to be a little more fair.  Don’t worry, I’ll skip back to snarky and flip soon enough.

There’s a reason why that guy I keep talking about keeps asking about Hideki Matsui.  It’s not because he’s dense. It’s not because he doesn’t understand Hideki Matsui’s market. It’s because he has no choice, nor do most of the other Japanese writers.  They are sent here by Japanese media companies for the express purpose of covering Japanese players. Often because the media company has a business imperative to sell the hell out of Matsui and need his face on the cover, constantly. And Ichiro’s face. And Matsuzaka’s.

A lot of these guys don’t want to focus so much on the Japanese players. I spoke briefly with one of the Japanese reporters today — not the Matsui guy, sadly — and he said that many of his colleagues want to talk about U.S. baseball more generally and to educate the Japanese
audience about other players. But the companies that
employ them demand wall-to-wall Matsui coverage. It’s what sells there. Understandable, really.

It does lead to silliness, the kind of which we’ve seen the past few days.  But it also has its miseries.  Indeed, according to an American beat writer I spoke with, there is no more miserable a job in baseball than being assigned to cover a Japanese starting pitcher.  The press following him still has to file every day even though he only pitches every fifth. What do you write when it’s mid-August and it’s not his turn and you’ve used up every single human interest angle in existence?  What’s worse, what do you write when the guy you’re covering is on the DL like Matsuzaka last year?

So, yes, I laugh a bit because it is kind of funny to hear Bobby Cox asked about whether he’d like Hideki Matsui on his club.  But it’s a benign laugh, one with empathy, not scorn, because the guy asking the question has a way harder job than I do, and he does it way farther away from his home than I do too.

Report: Diamondbacks acquire Steven Souza from Rays; Yankees land Brandon Drury

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Update (6:35 PM ET): This is a three-team deal also involving the Diamondbacks, per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The Diamondbacks will receive outfielder Steven Souza from the Rays and second baseman Brandon Drury will head to the Yankees. Lefty reliever Anthony Banda will go to the Rays, Piecoro adds. The Diamondbacks will also receive prospect Taylor Widener from the Yankees, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post. MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert adds that the Rays will get two players to be named later from the D-Backs.

Souza, 28, is earning $3.55 million in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility, so the Rays are presumably saving money in moving him. Last season, Souza hit a productive .239/.351/.459 with 30 home runs, 78 RBI, 78 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases in 617 plate appearances. Souza’s arrival almost certainly pushes Yasmany Tomas out of a starting gig.

Drury, 25, has played a handful of positions in his brief major league career. Last year, he played second base in Arizona, batting .267/.317/.447 with 13 home runs and 63 RBI in 480 PA.

Banda, 24, made his major league debut last season, posting an ugly 5.96 ERA with a 25/10 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings. The peripherals suggest he pitched better than his ERA indicated.

Widener, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the 12th round of the 2016 draft. This past season with High-A Tampa, he pitched 119 1/3 innings and posted a 3.39 ERA with a 129/50 K/BB ratio. MLB Pipeline rated Widener as the 14th-best prospect in the Yankees’ system.

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Robert Murray of FanRag Sports reports that the Rays will acquire second base prospect Nick Solak from the Yankees. The Yankees’ return is presently not known.

Solak, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the second round of the 2016 draft. He spent last season between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, hitting a combined .297/.384/.452 with 12 home runs, 53 RBI, 72 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases.

MLB Pipeline ranked Solak as the eighth-best prospect in the Yankees’ system and the fifth-best second base prospect in baseball, praising him for his ability to hit line drives as well as his speed.