MLB announcing Oakland versus Seattle as the season-opening series in Japan next year led to speculation that the A’s were committed to re-signing Japanese outfielder Hideki Matsui, but it turns out that may not be the case.
Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that the A’s are intent on “going younger” and could pass on re-signing Matsui even if he’s willing to take a pay cut from this season’s $4.25 million salary.
Matsui is 37 years old and coming off the worst season of his career, hitting just .251 with 12 homers and a .696 OPS in 141 games. He came into the year as a career .290 hitter with an .848 OPS.
Slusser reports that Matsui’s agent will meet next week with Billy Beane, but the general manager has hinted that the A’s may spend even less than usual on free agents this winter because they’re waiting to hear back from MLB about a possible new ballpark in San Jose.
Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.
Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.
Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.