It's been well documented here at BCB that the Brewers have a pretty significant hole at third base. Slingin' David Stearns and the Brewers haven't done much other than thin out the potential pool of candidates at the hot corner to this point, removing both Hernan Perez and Elian Herrera from the 40 man roster over the past few weeks. The club also passed on Korean third baseman Jae-gyun Hwang, who was posted by his KBO club last week and received no interest from any MLB teams amidst some reports that he wasn't seen as a legitimate everyday option.
Japanese 3B Nobuhiro Matsuta of Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks has signed with the Legacy Agency. Peter Greenberg representing.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 5, 2015
There is, however, another name on the third base market who could make the jump to the MLB by way of Asia - Nobuhiro Matsuda. Matsuda is a native of Japan has spent his entire 10 year career in his native country's Nippon Professional Baseball, which is generally viewed as a far superior league to the KBO and has a much larger track record of players making successful transitions to the U.S.
Matsuda has enjoyed a distinguished career since debuting for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, the only professional team he has ever known, as a 23 year old back in 2006. He's compiled a career .277/.325/.477 batting line with 161 home runs in 1064 games. He comes with a reputation as a terrific defender and has won three Golden Gloves for his work at third base.
This past season was one of the star third baseman's most productive as he batted .287/.357/.533 in 603 plate appearances for the Hawks. His 35 home runs and .889 OPS were both career highs - though that could in part be attributed to the fences being moved in at his home ballpark prior to the season. He's still shown a good amount pop throughout his career and has hit 17 or more home runs in each of the six seasons that he's appeared in more than 100 games. He's also reached double digits in steals six times in his career, though he's not particularly efficient (68% success rate).
After becoming eligible for international free agency this winter, the 32 year old Matsuda told the Japan Times:
"One's life in baseball is short. 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."
Given the his sturdy track record and the lack of other viable options on the free agent market, there should be no shortage of interest in Matsuda's services. Indeed, two members of the Padres front office, including GM A.J. Preller, have already met with Matsuda's camp to express interest. Working to Matsuda's advantage is the fact that he does not need to go through the posting process, meaning his former team won't get any additional compensation and there are no limitations on his signing. Still, given his age it's likely that he'll be able to be had on a shorter term deal that probably shouldn't be too expensive. Perhaps something like a two year, $10 mil deal could get it done.
Without a clear immediate or long-term solution at the hot corner, Matsuda could make plenty of sense as a stop-gap option for the Brewers. He should be able to provide plenty of defensive value, which would be quite beneficial for a young pitching staff that tends to rely heavily on inducing ground balls. The hope is that his offensive track record will translate to roughly a league average bat against MLB competition, which would probably make him about a 2-3 win contributor. That sort of production would be valuable to help stabilize the third base situation through the next couple of rebuilding years while the organization works to figure out its long-term plans at the position. When paired with an inexpensive contract he could potentially provide the team with a nice trade asset down the road, as well.