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Cubs free agent target: Yuki Matsui

Could the Cubs find bullpen help from NPB?

Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

Much attention is being paid this offseason to Japanese players Shohei Ohtani (who, of course, has a lot of great MLB experience), Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Shota Imagata. The latter two are pitchers who could step right into a MLB rotation.

The Cubs do need rotation help, but they also need to shore up a bullpen that was a key factor in last September’s collapse.

Yuki Matsui, who turned 28 at the end of October, might be someone who could really help the Cubs pen. Per MLB Trade Rumors, Matsui exercised his international free agent rights (which he could do after 10 seasons in NPB) and is said to want to come to MLB.

Over 10 seasons in NPB, Matsui has a 2.40 ERA and 1.108 WHIP, with 236 saves. Over the last three years, he’s been more or less lights-out for Rakuten, with a 1.42 ERA and 0.882 WHIP over 155 games covering 152 innings. He’s posted 95 saves over that span, and has struck out 214 and walked 53. He’s lefthanded, which is always useful in an MLB bullpen.

Those are all fantastic numbers! Of course, all of them are likely to be somewhat worse in MLB. But at Matsui’s age (28), he could rate the two-year deal MLBTR projects for him. They say two years, $16 million, and I don’t think that’s unreasonable. MLBTR says:

Matsui isn’t without question marks. He’s listed at 5’8″ and 167 pounds, with that slight frame perhaps a source of trepidation for some teams. Evaluators with whom MLBTR spoke were mixed on his profile, which one described as headlined by an above-average slider and a deceptive delivery. His youth still opens the possibility of two or three years.

For two years and $16 million and “an above-average slider and a deceptive delivery,” I think the Cubs could take a chance on him. Closing in Japan isn’t exactly like closing in MLB, but Matsui does have all those saves and so it’s possible the Cubs could even use him in that role as a backup to Adbert Alzolay. In any case, it’s possible the Cubs could find good relief here at a fraction of the cost of (say) Josh Hader.

What say you?

Poll

Yuki Matsui...

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    ... the Cubs should sign him to a deal like the one MLB Trade Rumors proposed
    (253 votes)
  • 22%
    ... the Cubs should sign him, but to a different deal in years or dollars or both
    (90 votes)
  • 12%
    ... the Cubs should not sign him
    (49 votes)
  • 0%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (2 votes)
394 votes total Vote Now