Most of the Japanese stars who have come to the U.S. majors have enjoyed success, but Kaz Matsui is a rare exception. After more than two years of waiting in vain for him to produce, the Mets gave up on Friday, dumping him on the Rockies in exchange for Eli Marrero.
Both clubs agreed to maintain their financial commitments to their former players, both of whom will become free agents at the end of the season. Matsui is making $8 million in the final season of a three-year, $20.1 million deal. Marrero is on a one-year, $750,000 contract.
Matsui, 30, was voted the top shortstop of the 20th century in Japan, where he was a seven-time all-star and won an MVP award in 1998. A switch-hitter, he has shown a longer swing and slower bat since coming to the States. Matsui has hit just .200/.235/.269 with one homer and seven RBIs in 38 games this year. A stolen-base threat in Japan, he has only two swipes. Matsui played shortstop for the Mets in 2004 before moving to second base the last two seasons. Though he has good range, he's an erratic defender. In another sign of how far he has fallen, Matsui was shipped to Triple-A Colorado Springs after changing organizations. He's a career .256/.308/.363 hitter with 11 homers, 75 RBIs and 22 steals in 239 games.
Marrero, 32, became expendable in Colorado thanks to the emergence of rookie Ryan Spilborghs. Offensively, Marrero offers some pop and defensive speed. He has hit .217/.347/.467 with four homers, 10 RBIs and three steals in 30 games and 60 at-bats this season. He's a versatile bench player who can play adequate defense at both outfield corners, first base and catcher. The Mets also plan on seeing if he can handle some action at third base. Marrero has batted .244/.303/.412 with 64 homers, 258 RBIs and 54 steals in 699 career games.