Two top members of the Padres front office — GM A.J. Preller and director of player personnel Logan White — met recently with free agent third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda, as reported by Japan’s Sponichi outlet (and as confirmed by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, on Twitter). The Japanese star is interested in pursuing a deal with a major league club, per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter), who also reported San Diego’s interest.
Matsuda chose an opportune time to attempt the move across the Pacific. He hit 35 homers last season — aided, at least in part, by newly-reduced dimensions at his home park — and put up a strong .287/.357/.533 slash. That constituted a career year by many measures (home runs, OBP, OPS), but Matsuda has been a consistently strong offensive performer.
The 32-year-old slugger is a free agent, so his former NPB team — the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks — won’t be able to claim a release fee. It also means there are no time limitations on his signing.
For the Padres, it’s not entirely clear how pursuit of the veteran would serve the club’s overall roster construction efforts. It’s possible to imagine that Matsuda will be available at a reasonable price tag, and San Diego’s west coast location would hold obvious appeal. But the team already has several options at third, including Yangervis Solarte and Will Middlebrooks. The former could, theoretically, be traded or used in a reserve/super-utility role. And the latter is arguably a non-tender candidate.
The meeting occurred during a scouting trip to Asia, per Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune, so it’s probably not worth reading too much into the in-person contact — especially as contract terms were not discussed. On the other hand, it is notable that such key decisionmakers met with Matsuda, and Lin writes that the pair “used the meeting to express their interest in Matsuda.”