• Kyodo


Hideki Matsui said Sunday he is not giving top priority to the duration of a new deal as his contract talks with the New York Yankees enter the final stage.

News photoTadahito Iguchi of the Chicago White Sox shows Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi how to bunt at Koizumi’s official residence on Monday.

“I don’t care much about the number of years,” Matsui said before a meeting with his agent, Arn Tellem, prior to Tuesday’s negotiation deadline with the Yankees as required under the current contract.

“You might think the longer a deal runs, the better. But it’s not necessarily so because I can be given the same opportunity as I have now again if it runs over a relatively short period.”

According to local media reports, the 31-year-old outfielder is expected to receive a four-year deal worth at least $10 million per year, a significant increase from an estimated $8 million this year.

The New York Post in its Sunday edition quoted a source as saying the Yankees’ recent offer was in the $12-12.5 million range per season for four years and the daily said the only question is whether the offer “will be close to what Matsui feels he’s worth.”

Matsui, who played for Japan’s Yomiuri Giants for 10 seasons and was named the Central League MVP three times, joined the Yankees after agreeing to a three-year, $21 million contract in December 2002.

He has a .297 batting average over three years with the Yankees with 70 homers and 330 RBIs. In 2005, he batted .305 with 192 hits and 116 RBIs.

‘Stars, Kroon at odds

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) Yokohama BayStars right-handed closer Mark Kroon, who owns the Japanese pro baseball record with a 161 kph fastball, has hit a snag in his request for a three-year deal with the Central League club, familiar sources said Monday.

Kroon, 32, appears fixed on getting a three-year contract, in which the third year would be considered as a club option, while the BayStars are only offering two years.

“He’s asking for over the maximum (that we have offered),” said Yokohama club president Susumu Minegishi.

As part of his current contract, Kroon, who posted a 3-2 record with 26 saves and a 2.70 ERA in 55 games this past season, can start talks with other clubs from Dec. 1.

Kroon, who played in six games for the Colorado Rockies in 2004, settled into the closer’s role in his first season this year and stole the limelight with his flamethrower arm.

However, Yokohama team managing director Masatake Yamanake said Kroon lacks true consistency and an offer of two years was reasonable, citing a history of injuries.

“We made him a sincere offer considering his popularity in Japan,” said Yamanaka, referring to making an exception by offering Kroon a multiyear deal.

Kroon had promised to meet with team officials for further talks before returning to the United States but had shown a hardline stance as talks broke down.

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