Tampa Bay called up Hideki Matsui last month despite his hitting just .170 in 13 games at Triple-A, so the fact that they’re now sticking with him despite his hitting .147 in 34 games in the majors follows that same line of (weird) thinking.
Matsui is 38 years old and hasn’t been healthy and productive in the same season since 2010, but for some reason the Rays’ decision-makers remain convinced that he has something left in the tank even when evidence to the contrary continues to pile up.
In addition to hitting .147 he has an ugly 22/8 K/BB ratio with just two homers in 103 plate appearances and has been particularly brutal in key spots, going 2-for-22 (.091) in “close and late” situations. Toss in his total lack of defensive value and … well, the whole situation is pretty confusing.
Here’s how manager Joe Maddon tried to explain the ongoing faith in Matsui:
You have a man of his caliber, a man of his esteem on the bench right there. I know he’s been struggling but at any moment it could possibly pop up and bite you in a good way.
Dating back to the beginning of last season Matsui has hit .235 with a .305 on-base percentage and .361 slugging percentage in 175 games and he was terrible in a two-week stint at Triple-A. While the Rays and Maddon wait for Matsui to “pop up and bite you in a good way” he’s costing them runs and games.
Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.
We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.
Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.
The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.
Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.
In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.
Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.
He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.
Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.
Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.
At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.
Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.
Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.
He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.