Yankees reach agreement with Matsui

Dec. 19, 2002 at 4:52 PM
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NEW YORK, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- The New York Yankees announced Thursday they had, "reached an understanding," on a three-year contract with Hideki Matsui, considered the best baseball player in Japan.

Matsui left the Yomiuri Giants last month to play in the United States.

The Yankees said they have agreed on the structure of the deal, which is subject to a physical exam and other considerations.

Terms were not disclosed although one report said the deal is worth $21 million and could include performance bonuses and an option for a fourth season.

"The Yankees are very fortunate to come to an understanding with one of the world's premier players," Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said. "This demonstrates our organization's commitment to identify and secure talent on a global scale."

Yomiuri executives offered Matsui a four-year, $32 million contract to stay in the Japanese League, but Matsui elected to follow the path of Ichiro Suzuki, who was the American League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player with the Seattle Mariners in 2001.

Matsui, a three-time MVP of Japan's Central League, hit .334 and led the league with 50 homers and 107 RBI in 2002. In November, Matsui was just five for 31 with two RBI for Japan in its exhibition games against a group of Major League Baseball players.

"This is a tremendous moment for baseball fans around the world," Yankees Assistant General Manager Jean Afterman said. "Hideki Matsui brings to the Yankees not only his extraordinary talents on the field, but his presence and his poise as well. I have no doubt that these qualities will be a great addition to the Yankees' championship efforts in 2003 and beyond."

Matsui played third base last season but is expected to play right or left field for the Yankees. New York re-signed third baseman Robin Ventura to a one-year, $5 million contract on Dec. 4.

Right fielder Raul Mondesi and left fielder Rondell White both struggled last season and have been mentioned in trade rumors.

Nicknamed "Godzilla," Matsui will be the first Japanese-born position player to play for the Yankees. Righthander Hideki Irabu was 29-20 during a tumultuous three years with New York before being dealt to Montreal prior to the 2000 season.

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