The San Diego Padres, the No. 3 spenders in 2023, are among the eight MLB teams who have yet to spend a single cent this offseason. It's been frustrating, to say the least, to watch the Padres trade away one of their biggest young stars, let elite pitchers get away in free agency, trade for one reliever, and then sit on their hands with less than two months left before pitchers and catchers report.
However, it looks like the sun might finally be peeking out from behind the clouds in San Diego, as the team is reportedly prepared to spend for the first time this offseason. Per Japanese baseball reporter Yuki Yamada of Sankei Sports, the Padres are close to signing veteran NPB closer Yuki Matsui, pending a physical.
Padres finally opening their wallets by signing Japanese reliever Yuki Matsui?
Neither Yamada nor MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, who corroborated Yamada's report, have any exact figures on Matsui's deal with the Padres yet. MLB Trade Rumors listed him at No. 43 on their "2023-24 Top 50 Free Agents" list, and predicted that his deal would be two years, $16 million, respectable numbers for a still relatively young reliever (Matsui is 28) who is as-yet untested in MLB but has a great track record in NPB as a five-time All-Star with a career 2.43 ERA over 10 seasons.
Matsui was posted by his NPB team, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, on Oct. 11, but it was largely drowned out by the noise his fellow countrymen and starters Yoshinobu Yamamoto and, to a lesser extent, Shōta Imanaga kicked up. Like Yamamoto and Imanaga, Matsui was part of Samurai Japan's 2023 WBC win; he pitched one spotless inning in relief and struck out a batter on the way.
As a closer for the Golden Eagles, Matsui has been brutally efficient. He's pitched 704 innings in NPB over 10 seasons, though his first season when he sometimes appeared as a starter inflates his numbers a bit. In those innings, he's only allowed 190 earned runs and 34 home runs. The concern for Matsui would be his walk rate, 10.9% over his career.
As far as first offseason signings go, this is a pretty good one for the Padres. They might have a potentially worthy replacement for Josh Hader who will cost many millions of dollars less and, blessedly, they'll just finally be getting in on the action after a few months of near-radio silence.