Agent: Matsui contract talks on hold
Yankees won't hold discussions until after team meetings
CHICAGO -- Arn Tellem, the agent for Yankees slugger Hideki Matsui, held court in the O'Hare Hilton lobby Wednesday morning to say that nothing new has transpired with his free-agent Japanese client.
"Nothing has changed," Tellem told a group of reporters. "But I expect things to pick up in a couple of weeks. As far as the Yankees go, I know they have organizational meetings so it will at least be several weeks until we get together with them as well. So that's pretty much it."Matsui, the MVP of the 2009 World Series, is one of seven free agents that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has to contend with. True to his word, he doesn't expect to have any of them signed before the 15-day exclusivity period ends Nov. 19. Aside from Matsui, that list includes Andy Pettitte, Johnny Damon, Eric Hinske, Jerry Hairston Jr., Jose Molina and Xavier Nady. All save for Pettitte have filed this week for free agency. "We're not in a position to have any discussions yet until we have our organizational meetings, so it's going to take some time," Cashman said on Thursday after the two days of meetings among the GMs ended. "Hopefully the trade and free-agent markets will allow us the time to take care of this. We're not in a position to try to execute a game plan because we haven't had the necessary dialogue to go into the decision-making mode." Though Cashman didn't want to divulge the dates of the organizational meetings in Tampa, Fla., he did say that they would be staged sometime before Thanksgiving on Nov. 26. There are two days of owners' meetings right back here in Chicago next Wednesday and Thursday, which will also disturb the flow of any Yankee gathering. Cashman said he's had only a few discussions with agents about his players since the Yanks defeated the Phillies for their 27th World Series title. But he also didn't preclude going back into the free-agent market to nab another big-time player like Matt Holliday, who is 29 and could easily replace the 36-year-old Damon in left field. Last offseason, the Yanks signed free agents Mark Teixeira ($180 million), CC Sabathia ($161 million) and A.J. Burnett ($82.5 million) to multiyear contracts. "We will explore every available trade, every available player on the free-agent market -- that pertains to other teams' free agents as well as our own," Cashman said. "We will go to all areas of the market place to explore every opportunity to try and make us as good as we can be in 2010." Of the big three pending free agents, Matsui and Damon have already said they'd like to re-sign with the Yankees, and Pettitte said he hasn't yet determined whether he wants to play baseball again in 2010. Matsui joined the Yankees as a free agent in 2002 after his ninth and final season in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants. He was a league MVP there and left a team that won the Japan Series in four games over the Seibu Lions. At the end of his seventh season with the Yankees, Matsui was named MVP of the World Series for hitting .615 (8-for-13) with three homers and eight RBIs, six of them in the final game to tie a 49-year-old World Series record set by another Yankee, Bobby Richardson. "He's a great player," Cashman said about Matsui. "When we went to Japan [in 2002] and signed him, it was with the dream that he'd come over and help us win a World Series. Now that he's done it, I couldn't be happier for him or for us. We knew what we had when we first signed him and that hasn't changed just because he was named MVP of the World Series." Tellem said his client is intent on remaining in Major League Baseball and with the Yankees, in particular, although he's already had discussions with some other teams about Matsui. "Actually, not that many," Tellem said. "I think negotiations with free agents won't begin in earnest until the 19th. But I'm not going to talk about those other teams or possibilities. I never do that. Right now, of course, we're waiting to talk to the Yankees, but that won't happen for a couple of weeks."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.