On Tuesday the Indians granted pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka his release from the organization. The move came at the request of Matsuzaka after months of toiling away with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers. In 19 starts, Dice-K posted a record of 5-8 to go along with a 3.92 ERA and 8.27 K/9. He had pitched surprisingly well for the Clippers and looked in line for a possible September 1 call up, but after watching himself be passed up time and time again in favor of other arms, Matsuzaka decided he was better off seeking an opportunity elsewhere.
Despite what many have reported or written, the story is more of a ripple and less of a wave. Matsuzaka was brought in essentially on a flyer. He was a low risk high reward signing that could serve as insurance in case a disaster occurred within the starting rotation. It also helped that Matsuzaka had an existing relationship with Terry Francona from their time shared in Boston. His experience handling Matsuzaka was seen as a positive that could have helped get the most out of the embattled pitcher.
But, given the overall performance of the starting rotation and the abundance of other options readily available in the minor league ranks, there was never really a need to explore Matsuzaka as an option. Corey Kluber’s emergence as a legitimate member of the starting rotation, Danny Salazar’s rise, and the continued chances given to Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer took away potential opportunities. Now with the possible return of Josh Tomlin lurking on the horizon, it became clear to Matsuzaka and his camp that an legitimate opportunity was not going to present itself.
Complicating matters was Matsuzaka’s place on the 40-man roster, or rather his lack there of. In order to bring Dice-K to Cleveland the Indians would have needed to do some creative shuffling of the roster. Add in the fact that they already have a roster heavy on pitching and it became unclear where exactly he could fit in.
It is clear that Matsuzaka’s primary role within the Indians organization was to serve primarily as vertical depth. He was merely another option for a “just in case” type of situation. What we know now after almost five months is that situation would had to of been a multiple injuries and poor performances. So while he did pitch well for the Clippers, he remained low on the totem pole.
Undoubtedly, the reaction to Matsuzaka’s release has more to do with who he was at one point in time and less to do with who he is now. Most people still view him as the Japanese sensation with the mysterious gyro ball who won 33 games in 2007 and 2008 combined. In the years since his peak, Matsuzaka has been plagued by injuries and a lack of confidence. His propensity to nibble around the plate rather than going after hitters only complicated things further. And while the Indians have made positive strides with Scott Kazmir, there is no assurance they would have been able to duplicate such success with Matsuzaka.
So now that Matsuzaka has parted ways with the Indians the rumor mill has begun swirling with possible landing spots. Among the possibilities that have been presented are Milwaukee, San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego, Minnesota, and the Mets. All of those places make sense and hopefully they give Matsuzaka the chance that he could not get with the Tribe. As for the Indians, they will continue their push towards the playoffs as if nothing has even changed.