Hideki Matsui went unsigned this offseason and was rarely even linked to any teams, but now Jack Curry of YES Network reports that 38-year-old “is expected to soon sign a minor-league deal” with the Rays.
It’s an odd fit, as Tampa Bay has gotten very good production from Luke Scott as their primary designated hitter and the defense-focused Rays seem unlikely to use Matsui in the outfield even if his bad knees would allow it physically.
From the Rays’ point of view it’s a no-risk flier and while Matsui didn’t hit much for the A’s last season–posting a career-low .696 OPS–that was the first time he’d failed to top a .775 OPS and he did bat .274 with 21 homers and an .820 OPS in 145 games for the Angels in 2010.
Matsui will likely spend some time at Triple-A while the Rays decide if they need an extra bat.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.