Despite belting a crucial home run in Game 2 of the World Series, Hideki Matsui will not start tonight in Philadelphia. The 35-year-old DH's knee issues have been much-discussed this season, as he has yet to play a single inning in the field. Tonight's Yankees lineup, which has the ice-cold Nick Swisher starting in right field, once again raises questions about Matsui's future.
When we last looked at Matsui's offseason prospects, his situation was a little different. It still looked obvious that the Yankees would retain Johnny Damon and cut ties with Matsui, given Damon's strong campaign and the health problems that prevented Matsui from playing in the outfield.
The Yankees' decision is a bit more complicated now though. Damon has struggled down the stretch, posting a .631 OPS in September and hitting just .220/.250/.360 in the playoffs so far. Matsui, meanwhile, posted a .900+ OPS in each of the last three months and has hit .278/.422/.472 in the postseason. Throw in the fact that Damon is a year older than Matsui, and not a strong defender (he recorded a -11.9 UZR/150 in left field this season), and the gap between the two players isn't nearly as wide as it looked earlier in 2009.
Matsui said recently that he's comfortable with the Yankees, despite being unsure if they'll want him back. He has also insisted he's healthy enough to play in the outfield, or even to try first base, opening up the door for a National League team to take a chance on him this winter. It's still hard, however, to envision a team like the New York Mets committing millions of dollars to Matsui when he has yet to be given the chance to play defense.
If you were the GM of your favorite National League team, would you be confident enough in Matsui's knees to offer him a deal, or is Matsui staying in the American League in 2010? If so, will he be in New York or with another AL team? And what about you, Yankees fans: Do you still prefer Damon to Matsui, heading into next season?