It has been no secret all season that the A’s have several roster decisions to make this coming offseason as they sift through the wreckage that was their 2011 season.
Oakland's acquisitions heading into the season (Josh Willingham, David DeJesus and Hideki Matsui) were meant to lift the offense and offer some balance and run support to their already elite pitching staff. Well, that didn’t quite go as the A’s had scripted, as they opened a season in which the national spotlight would be focused on the team as the season wound down.
Yep, the scripted version of Oakland's 2002 season as portrayed in the Hollywood movie “Moneyball” is about as close as A’s fans will come to remembering the excitement that surrounded those winning clubs of the early 2000s.
For most of the season, Josh Willingham stood alone as the only threat in Oakland's otherwise meek lineup. A’s fans have hoped and implored the front office to bring Willingham back for 2012 and beyond. Heading into June, the same certainly could not be said of Oakland’s designated hitter, Hideki Matsui.
Matsui had seen his playing time diminish as his season-long slump continued under then-manager Bob Geren’s guidance and usage in the lineup. At that point, had you told me that the A’s would be considering bringing Matsui back in 2012, or that he would want to come back for that matter, I would have laughed off the notion as the most unfathomable of events.
Not coincidentally at all, the appointment of Bob Melvin as interim-manager following Geren’s dismissal turned Matsui’s season around, and the three-year contract extension given to Melvin to continue managing the A’s strengthens the likeliness of a reunion between the A’s and “Godzilla” next season.
As reported by The San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea back on August 14, Melvin has openly stated to the media that he would like to see Matsui return if he were to manage the team beyond this season.
Well, Melvin got his extension. Are the A’s soliciting his opinion on which players he would like to retain in free agency? Melvin certainly seems to have general manager Billy Beane’s ear.
“I talk to him more times in a day than I talk to my wife,” Beane joked. “It’s really a real stimulating relationship. Bob’s got a lot to offer, and one of the things that I really appreciate is he’s got great ideas. I’ve been really amazed at how seamless not only our professional relationship, but our personal relationship, has grown as well. We agree on a lot of things and I think we have an idea of what it takes to put together a good club going forward, so Bob’s a part of every discussion we have.”
Seems that Melvin will have a say when it comes to his desire to continue coaching Matsui. Early indications are that Matsui would like to continue playing for Melvin as well.
Comcast Sports Net Bay Area reporter Casey Pratt had the following to say in her CSN Blog:
I spoke to a Japanese reporter that told me Melvin saved Matsui’s season. He told me Matsui thinks very highly of Melvin for putting him in the heart of the lineup every day after he took over. Even though Matsui was struggling with irregular playing time under Bob Geren. The reporter went so far as to say Matsui would consider coming back with Melvin at the helm.
Should A's re-sign Hideki Matsui for 2012?
Considering the slim market for DH candidates this offseason (Vladimir Guerrero and David Ortiz head the list before settling on Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi or another former A’s slugger, Jack Cust), there is a high probability that the A’s will not deem an outside candidate as a worthy upgrade at the position.
Internal replacement option, Chris Carter, has failed to prove he is capable of hitting Major League pitching on a consistent basis, hurting his chances of the team entrusting him with the position full time to begin the 2012 campaign.
Adding to the speculation that an A’s-Matsui reunion could be in the works this offseason, Susan Slusser, also of The San Francisco Chronicle, has reported that talks between Major League Baseball and the A’s to open their 2012 season against the Seattle Mariners and Ichiro Suzuki in Japan have resumed.
Were Matsui, a free agent, to return to Oakland—which appears to be a strong possibility—and if the A’s and Mariners agree to the trip, Matsui would be facing Japan’s other big-name position player, Seattle outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. That would be a major event in Japan. Matsui’s longtime Japanese team, the Yomiuri Giants, plays at the Tokyo Dome.
Perhaps implying that his teammates expect him to return, Andrew Bailey told Slusser “Matsui and Ichiro in Japan would be great.”
Everything certainly seems to be aligning for a 2012 reunion between the two sides. As Slusser points out in her article, though, Matsui “must get an offer from Oakland first.”
Now that Melvin is in the fold for next season (and beyond), I’d be willing to wager a bet that Matsui won’t be far behind.