Could Rox return to the Matsui era?
An intriguing possibility for the Rockies presented itself when the Astros asked unconditional release waivers on second baseman Kazuo Matsui after their game with the Rockies on Wednesday night. Matsui, of course, was one of the key cogs in the Rockies’ run to the 2007 World Series. Matsui, 34, signed with the Astros after that season. He hit .293 with 20 stolen bases in 96 games for the Astros in 2008 but dropped to .250 with 19 steals in 132 games in 2009.
Any club has the right to claim Matsui by Monday. The Rockies aren’t inclined to do so and it’s not clear if anyone wants to pick him up an clear a roster spot for him. However, if he clears waivers, it’s fair to say the Rockies have reason to be intrigued.
Matsui was a superstar in Japan. After much fanfare, he signed with the Mets for the 2004 season but didn’t blossom in the Majors until joining the Rockies in a 2006 trade. Matsui hit .300 with six home runs, 56 RBIs and 40 steals in 132 total games with the Rockies. His high point with the Rockies was a grand slam in the 10-5 victory in Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the Phillies.
Also, Matsui was well-liked by teammates and management.
What role would he have with the Rockies today? Just guessing here, but he certainly could add depth. He would more likely have to go to Triple-A Colorado Springs for regular playing time, but could be a reasonable alternative if Rockies starting second baseman Clint Barmes continues to struggle offensively and defensively. The drawback about Matsui, however, would be that it would be hard to ask him to play shortstop on days that Troy Tulowitzki rests. Barmes can do that. Also, Matsui’s decline the last two years left veteran baseball observers questioning how much he has left, especially after years of back issues.
Still, it would be worth it for the Rockies to at least consider approaching Matsui to increase depth.