Dodgers targeting Hideki Matsui as bench bat

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Athletics general manager Billy Beane indicated earlier this week that he’d like to go younger with the DH spot next season, which means that Hideki Matsui will almost certainly be playing elsewhere next season. His search for a job may lead him to an interesting place: the National League.

Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts was told by Tony Jackson of ESPN Los Angeles via email that Matsui is among at least three names the Dodgers are considering as a left-handed bat off the bench.

Matsui, 37, has spent all nine of his MLB seasons in the American League. He is coming off the worst season of his career, though, hitting just .251/.321/.375 with 12 homers and a .696 OPS in 141 games.

There are plenty of one-dimensional aging DH-types available this winter, including Vladimir Guerrero, Johnny Damon and, yes, even Manny Ramirez, so with Matsui’s skills in decline, a bench job might be the best he can do. We probably wouldn’t see him in the outfield much due to his knees, but he did play 27 games in left field with Oakland this past season.

Blue Jays release John Axford

John Axford
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The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.

Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.

Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.

Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.