Veteran right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka will retire following the 2021 season, as per an announcement from the Saitama Seibu Lions of Nippon Professional Baseball (hat tip to The Kyodo News). The 40-year-old last pitched during the 2019 NPB season and hasn’t since been able to get back onto the mound after undergoing cervical spine surgery last year.
Unfortunately for Matsuzaka, he will hang up his glove without one final appearance for the Lions, his original team. Matsuzaka signed with the Tokyo-based club following the 2019 season but injuries have kept him from fully capping off his career with a 12th season in Japan’s top league.
Of course, Matsuzaka’s status as a Lions legend was already established with his outstanding initial run from 1999-2006, as “Dice-K” rose from being an 18-year-old wunderkind to one of Japan’s best pitchers. That led to his move to North American baseball, and a high-profile posting process that ended up being won by the Red Sox during the 2006-07 offseason. The Sox paid a then-record posting fee of $51,111,111.11 to acquire Matsuzaka’s services from the Lions, and then inked the righty to a six-year contract worth $52MM in guaranteed money.
Given the big price tag and the high expectations, it is fair to call Matsuzaka’s tenure a disappointment, given how injuries and an increasing lack of effectiveness kept him from being a consistent rotation force. That said, it is also incorrect to call his contract an outright bust for the Sox, since Dice-K did help the Red Sox win the 2007 World Series and come within a game of another AL pennant in 2008. Matsuzaka posted a 4.40 ERA over 204 2/3 innings during his 2007 rookie season, and then a 2.90 ERA over 167 2/3 frames in 2008 that resulted in a fourth-place finish in AL Cy Young Award voting.
A rotator cuff strain limited Matsuzaka in 2008, and that was the beginning of a lengthy list of injuries that plagued the right-hander for much of the remainder of his eight seasons in the majors. The most notable setback was Tommy John surgery in 2011, which sidelined him for most of what ended up being his final two seasons with the Red Sox.
Matsuzaka then signed with the Indians in 2013 but didn’t make any big league appearances for Cleveland, and he then went to the Mets to toss 122 innings over the 2013-14 seasons before he returned to Japan. He appeared in parts of three seasons with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and Chunichi Dragons, and though he continued to be limited by injuries, Matsuzaka did get one last day in the sun as a member of the 2018 NPB All-Star team. (The Hawks also won the 2017 Japan Series when Matsuzaka was on the roster, though he didn’t pitch that season.)
Matsuzaka retires with an impressive career resume that include a 3.04 ERA over 1464 1/3 NPB innings, and a 4.45 ERA in 790 1/3 innings in Major League Baseball. His list of accolades includes his World Series ring with the Red Sox, the 2004 Japan Series title with the Lions, two World Baseball Classic titles for Japan, the 2001 Sawamura Award as NPB’s best starting pitcher, seven NPB All-Star citations, and Pacific League Rookie Of The Year honors in 1999. We at MLB Trade Rumors congratulate Matsuzaka on a terrific career.