On Tuesday, the Indians released Daisuke Matsuzaka from their Triple-A affiliate at his request. Shortly thereafter, CBSSports.com's Scott Miller reported the veteran right-hander is expected to sign with a new team in the next day or two. A handful of clubs have been in touch with Matsuzaka's agent, Scott Boras.
“We didn't have an immediate opportunity for Dice-K,” said Indians general manager Chris Antonetti to Miller. “He was throwing well at Triple-A, and he thought he may have a better opportunity.”
Dice-K, 32, had a 3.92 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP in 103 1/3 innings across 19 starts with Triple-A Columbus before asking for his release. His strikeout rate (8.3 K/9) was very good, his walk rate (3.4 BB/9) less so. Pretty typical compared to the rest of his career, really. Matsuzaka reported to the minors after losing the fifth starter battle to Scott Kazmir in spring training.
Even though Dice-K has not been even close to an average big league starter in three years -- 93 ERA+ in 2010, then 62 ERA+ from 2011-12 while dealing with injuries -- it's likely a pitching-needy club will give him a look for the season's final month. It would be more of an audition for 2014 than a "he can get us over the hump and into the postseason" signing. Here are a few teams who could give him that audition.
This has been a disaster season for the Brewers, who currently have the fifth worst record in baseball. Long man Tom Gorzelanny has given the club a nice boost after moving into the rotation last month (3.53 ERA in seven starts), but adding Matsuzaka would give the team more depth. Milwaukee is an unlikely destination, but there is a bit of a fit.
Right-hander Kyle Gibson was just demoted to Triple-A Rochester, clearing a rotation spot. Long man Anthony Swarzak is a candidate to join the starting staff in his place. The Twinkies are biding their time until some of their top young arms are big league ready, and Dice-K would serve as a decent stopgap next summer. Pitching in a big ballpark in a low pressure environment for a non-contender the rest of 2013 would be the best thing for him as well.
The Mets were rumored to have interest in Dice-K this past winter, and they recently lost both Jenrry Mejia and Jeremy Hefner to season-ending elbow injuries. The impending workload-related shutdowns of Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey will thin out their September rotation even further. If anyone figures to need arms in the coming week, it's the Mets.
The Padres were another club rumored to have interest in the Matsuzaka during the offseason. Their rotation is in good shape following Tyson Ross' breakout and the Ian Kennedy pickup at the trade deadline, so their need for another starter isn't all that high at the moment. If they move impending free agent Edinson Volquez in a waiver trade -- he was on the block for most of the summer -- Dice-K could be a cheap replacement.
Ryan Vogelsong returned from the DL not to long ago, but San Francisco lost Chad Gaudin to injury earlier this week and was forced to put Barry Zito back into the rotation. They're also losing three starters (Vogelsong, Zito, Tim Lincecum) to free agency after the season and have little help coming from the farm system. The Giants have done a great job of turning reclamation projects into quality starters in recent years, so Dice-K makes sense for them. From Matsuzaka's point of view, I'm not sure there's a better fit.
Lefty Joe Saunders is a waiver trade candidate and righty Aaron Harang is a release candidate, so the Mariners could look to Dice-K as a low-cost replacement. Seattle has a strong Japanese presence and has had a healthy dose of high-profile Japanese players over the years -- Ichiro Suzuki most notably, but also Kenji Johjima and Hisashi Iwakuma -- so Matsuzaka would fit right in.