SAPPORO – Fukuoka Softbank Hawks infielder Nobuhiro Matsuda will exercise his right to file for international free agency and admitted on Monday that he wants to try his luck in the major leagues.
Matsuda, who is currently on Japan national team duty for the inaugural Premier 12 tournament, played a key role in helping the Hawks win their second consecutive Japan Series title this season, hitting a personal best 35 home runs and 94 RBIs. Matsuda has won three Golden Gloves at third base.
“One’s life in baseball is short,” he said in a statement released by the Hawks. “To avoid regrets I’ve made this decision out of a desire to learn what I am worth. This is the only chance I will have to find out whether or not I can compete in the majors.”
The loss of Matsuda could come as a double blow to Softbank, with South Korean first baseman Lee Dae-ho, the Japan Series MVP, also attempting to land a major league contract.
With a flock of major league scouts now in Taiwan to evaluate players during the Premier 12, both Matsuda and Lee will have ample opportunity to showcase their talents.
Softbank has said that Matsuda, who is in the 10th year of his pro career, and Lee will both re-sign with the team if they fail to get major league contracts.
Matsuda, who joined Softbank in 2006, has a career record of 161 home runs, 577 RBIs, 1,089 hits and a .277 batting average in 1,064 games. He benefitted from shortened home run distances this year at Yafuoku Dome, hitting nearly as many home runs this year as the 38 he hit over the previous two seasons combined.
While Matsuda and Lee are looking abroad, 33-year-old ace Tadashi Settsu declined to exercise his right to become a free agent and signed a three-year deal estimated at ¥400 million a year with additional incentives.
Asked if he was aiming to be the Hawks opening day starter for the fifth straight year, Settsu, who has struggled the past two summers, said, “That is some motivation for me, but bigger than that is the desire to maintain my spot in the rotation for a full year.”
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