One year after trying, unsuccessfully, to lure Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui to Baltimore, the Orioles are considering making a push for the player known as "Little Matsui."
Kazuo Matsui, a switch-hitting shortstop for the Seibu Lions of the Japanese Pacific League, declared his intention to test the major league free-agent market on Thursday, and the Orioles could be one of his heaviest pursuers.
The Orioles are a logical choice because they have the money to spend this offseason, and they have a need at shortstop.
"I'd say he's among the guys we're looking at," a high-ranking Orioles official said yesterday.
Kaz Matsui, 27, is a seven-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove Award winner in Japan. He hit .305 this season with 33 home runs in 140 games. Major league officials expect him to sign with Arn Tellem, the same agent who delivered Hideki Matsui to the Yankees last season.
The Orioles made a three-year, $21 million offer to Hideki Matsui last winter, but he signed with the Yankees for the same price.
Kaz Matsui will weigh any major league offers he receives against the large offer he received to stay with the Seibu Lions.
"I really don't know what I'll do yet," Matsui told reporters in Japan on Thursday. "I'm about 50-50 now. I feel like my chance is here and now, and I'm delighted to be in this position."
Francona to interview?
The Oakland Athletics granted the Orioles permission to interview bench coach Terry Francona, the former Philadelphia Phillies manager, for their managerial post, but that interview had not been scheduled as of yesterday.
The Orioles already have interviewed Eddie Murray, Sam Perlozzo, Rich Dauer and Rick Dempsey.
Eight minor-leaguers sign
The Orioles re-signed eight players to minor-league contracts and assigned them to Triple-A Ottawa, including Carlos Mendez and Pedro Swann, who both saw time with the big league club this year, and Luis Lopez, who played for the Orioles in 2002.
The other players to re-sign were Tim Corcoran, Darwin Cubillan, Sean Spencer, Cory Harris and Chris Lemonis.