Yuki Matsui (28-Rakuten Golden Eagles), an exceptional left-handed closer who is the youngest player in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) to record 200 saves, has announced his intention to play in Major League Baseball.
“Matsui has informed the club of his intention to exercise his overseas free agent rights,” Japanese media outlet Sportshochi reported on Friday.
Rakuten president Masayuki Morii said, “(Matsui) said he wants to challenge overseas first. Considering his age, he said that the opportunity to do so is now.” “As a club, we want to fulfill Matsui’s desire to play in the major leagues. We know that it is difficult to interfere with a player’s rights. We told him (Matsui) that if he wants to stay in Japan, he should definitely consider Rakuten.”
Matsui is arguably the best closer in NPB. After joining Rakuten as the No. 1 pick in the 2013 Rookie Draft, Matsui pitched primarily as a starter (starting 17 of 27 games) in his rookie year in 2014, but switched to relief in his second year and found success.
Starting with 33 saves in 2015, his first year in the closer’s role, and reaching 30 saves in three consecutive years in 2016 (30) and 2017 (33), Matsui won his first career saves title in 2019 with 38 saves.
After a slow start to 2020, in which he split time between the starting rotation and the bullpen, Matsui racked up two saves (4-5, 8-hole), he resumed his torrid pace with 24 saves in 2021 and 32 saves in 2022. On April 5 of this year, he became the youngest player in NPB with 200 saves at the age of 27 years and five months against the Seibu Lions.토토사이트
Matsui has been a solid backstop for Rakuten this season as well. In 59 games, he posted a 2-3 record with eight shutouts and 39 saves for a 1.57 ERA. It was his second consecutive year and third career save title after last year (32 saves). In his NPB career, he has a 25-46 record with 76 wins, 236 losses, and a 2.40 ERA in 501 games.
A left-handed fireballer who throws a fastball up to 154 km/h despite his diminutive size of 174 cm and 74 kg, Matsui also has a variety of other pitches, including a forkball in the 140 km/h range, a slider, and a curveball, which have attracted a lot of interest from major league teams. According to Sportshochi, representatives from nine teams, including the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Chicago Cubs, gathered to watch Matsui at a game between Rakuten and the Orix Buffaloes on September 16. In October, San Diego club officials traveled to Japan to make a final check on Matsui.
According to Sportshochi, the St. Louis Cardinals, the team of Rasu Nutba, who played for Japan in the World Baseball Classic (WBC), are also said to be very interested in Matsui. The media outlet speculated that St. Louis, which finished in last place in the National League Central this season, would make an offer to Matsui as it is in urgent need of a Class A bullpen to handle the seventh and eighth innings.
A number of pitchers have received major league interest this offseason, including Yoshinobu Yamamoto of the Orix Buffaloes, who became the first pitcher in NPB history to win four championships in three consecutive years, and left-handed ace Shota Imanaga of the Yokohama DeNA Basestars. It will be interesting to see if Matsui can fulfill his dream of becoming a major leaguer.