Hideki Matsui signed with the A's, which has been known for a few days, but became official this morning. I wasn't going to write about it, but then I saw the terms. Matsui's contract includes a limited no trade clause. He cannot be traded to six teams: the Orioles, Blue Jays, Indians, Royals, Twins, and Mariners.
I am taking a guess that Matsui wants to play for a contender, and that might have something to do with the first four teams on the list. Who knows, maybe Matsui is also like Ichiro, and would have to punch himself in the face* if he said he enjoyed playing in Cleveland.
*Scroll down for quote, it's right above the "For the Record" heading
However, the list of teams can't be all about wins and losses. The Twins are contenders in the AL Central every year right now. Also, even though the Mariners are not in a position to contend in 2011, there could be more to their inclusion on Matsui's list too.
The Mariners have been linked to Matsui the past couple years. Last year, there were rumors that Ichiro and Matsui could not coexist on the same roster, for one reason or another. One of the bigger ones at that time was that Hideki was just named World Series MVP, and wasn't all that interested in sharing the spotlight with another Japanese star. Signing with the Angels, a direct rival to Ichiro's Mariners, didn't dispel that theory.
This offseason, the Mariners seemed to show more legitimate interest in Matsui, but he didn't seem to be showing interest back. With the limited no trade clause announced today, now we know for sure that Hideki was not interested in the M's.
While the M's are a cruddy team right now, I can't help but wonder if their spot on Matsui's no-trade list has more to do with fame and Ichiro than anything else. Is it a coincidence that the one contender on his list signed Tsuyoshi Nishioka this offseason, the reigning Pacific League batting champ? Is it also a coincidence that Matsui signed with the A's a week after their pursuit of Hisashi Iwakuma ended?
It would be naive to say that Matsui didn't think about his perception in Japan at all. How couldn't he? It was a really big deal when he came over to join the Yankees. It was a really big deal all over again when he didn't play in the inaugural World Baseball Classic, and Ichiro lead that team to the title. When Matsui was named 2009 World Series MVP - well, you guessed it, that was also a really big deal.
Maybe as a player, Matsui is now a veteran just trying to fill his role and get back to the postseason. However, it is hard to look at his limited no-trade clause, and ignore that he is thinking about his legacy in Japan too.