• Kyodo

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No major progress was made in dealings for free agents Hideki Matsui and Norihiro Nakamura on the final day of the MLB winter meetings in Nashville on Monday.

What is clear after the discussions held over the last four days is that the New York Yankees are leading the hunt for Matsui while the Mets have emerged as a key player in deciding the future of Nakamura, who is also in talks with two Japanese clubs.

Meanwhile in Osaka, Nakamura said he has yet to choose the club he will play for next season after the third round of talks with the Hanshin Tigers on Tuesday.

Nakamura, who is also in talks with the Kintetsu Buffaloes and the New York Mets, met with manager Senichi Hoshino and three other Hanshin officials and suggested he will make a final decision by the end of the year.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the “situation has not changed,” adding that the American League team still hopes to sign the three-time Central League MVP.

Cashman, however, said he could not comment on U.S. media reports that the Yankees and Matsui are close to a deal.

Mets general manager Steve Phillips, who made a fresh offer for Nakamura a day earlier, said they have continued trying to reach a compromise until now because of their need for a third baseman.

Nakamura’s agent Masami Shigeta hinted the total package of the latest Mets offer would earn Nakamura over 500 million yen per year.

Phillips said further that though the Mets are also still in the hunt for Matsui, they are in no real hurry to close a deal, showing a somewhat cooled stance to courting the 28-year-old Ishikawa native.

Other teams, including the Boston Red Sox, who do not possess the Yankees’ cash-rich coffers, have apparently started to distance themselves from the acquisition of Matsui.

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