World Series MVP lands with Angels
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Angels went from one aging designated hitter to another on Wednesday, finalizing a $6 million, one-year contract with World Series MVP Hideki Matsui that all but signals the end of the Vladimir Guerrero era.
Matsui hit .274 with 28 homers and 90 RBIs last season for the New York Yankees, then was selected World Series MVP despite starting only three of the six games against Philadelphia. The two-time All-Star went 8 for 13 (.615) with three homers and eight RBIs, tying a Series record by driving in six runs in Game 6.
Slowed by surgically repaired knees, the 35-year-old Matsui will replace Guerrero as Los Angeles' primary DH. Guerrero, who turns 35 in February, also has been hobbled by injuries and is a free agent.
"What Vlad has done for our organization, you really can't quantify it," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's going to go out and obviously continue his career, which is going to be Hall-of-Fame caliber by the time he's done. We're looking to move ahead. On the offensive side, it was important to get this done."
Angels general manager Tony Reagins said he has spoken to Guerrero's representatives.
"He was accepting of our decision to move on," he said.
Guerrero's average declined to .295 with 15 home runs and 50 RBIs in 100 games last season, which began with him recovering from knee surgery. He went on the disabled list twice, but recovered for the postseason, leading the Angels with a .378 average, one homer and seven RBIs in nine games.
Guerrero rarely played the outfield last season for the Angels. Matsui has not played the outfield since June 2008, and the Angels said his availability will be decided in spring training.
"It's going to be contingent on his health and how Hideki feels," Scioscia said. "It's much more important for us to have his presence in the lineup swinging the bat everyday than it is to try to ask him to go play the outfield if it's something he's not ready for. That being said, we're a much deeper team and have many more options if he can go play the outfield whenever we need, 2-3 days a week."
Matsui was introduced during a news conference in which more than 100 media, including a large Japanese contingent, crowded into a room at Angel Stadium to watch him don a red Angels cap and a No. 55 jersey.
"I'm very excited," he said through a translator. "This is the beginning of a new journey for me. I'd like to do my best in every way I can to bring another world championship to this team since they won in 2002."
Matsui surpassed 100 RBIs four times in seven seasons with the Yankees after coming over from Japan, where he was a huge star. He just completed a $52 million, four-year contract with New York.
"There was a certain level of attachment there, but this organization had welcomed me with open arms and understood my goals and desires," said Matsui, who indicated few other clubs were pursuing him.
Matsui will be the second Japanese player in Angels' history, and his presence is certain to be a hit with the region's large Asian population. Shigetoshi Hasegawa pitched for the club from 1997-2001.
Matsui and the Yankees beat Los Angeles in the AL championship series last season. The Angels have won three straight AL West titles and five of the past six, but haven't reached the World Series since winning the 2002 title.
"He's a left-handed hitter that can play against anyone," Scioscia said. "The impact he'll have on our lineup, it'll be felt right away."
Matsui was among three key free agents on the Yankees. Left-hander Andy Pettitte agreed last week to an $11.75 million, one-year contract. Talks have stalled with left fielder Johnny Damon, whose agent wants more guaranteed years than the team is willing to offer.
"We put our best foot forward and that wasn't enough to get the deals done," Reagins said about retaining Lackey and infielder Chone Figgins, who left for Seattle.
At the same time, Reagins said he has no financial constraints from owner Arte Moreno.
"From the offensive side, we feel we've filled our needs," he said. "We feel real good about the club, but we still have some opportunities out there."
Lackey had a 102-71 regular-season record with a 3.81 ERA in eight years, all with the Angels. The 31-year-old right-hander is coming off a strong postseason.
"The only way you're really going to survive is to keep developing your own pitching," Scioscia said. "They have the potential to elevate their games to what John has done. It's not one guy that's going to fill what John does."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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