OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Free agent slugger Hideki Matsui and the Oakland Athletics were working to finalize a contract Monday that would make him the team's new designated hitter.
A person with knowledge of the deal confirmed to The Associated Press that the sides were close. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because there was no formal announcement.
Oakland general manager Billy Beane has been looking for a DH this winter to boost offensive production in the middle of the batting order. The A's hit just 109 home runs and scored 663 runs last season, their second-fewest in the last 28 non-strike seasons.
The 36-year-old Matsui batted .274 with 21 home runs and 84 RBIs last season with the Los Angeles Angels, the Athletics' AL West rival. He spent his first seven major league seasons with the New York Yankees and was MVP of the 2009 World Series.
The A's seem to have found their Japanese star after all. Last week, Oakland failed to reach agreement on a contract with Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma during the allotted 30-day negotiating period.
With a talented young pitching staff, the A's stayed in the division chase until late in the season — losing out to the AL champion Texas Rangers — and finished 81-81 for second place in the AL West. That was despite using the disabled list 23 times, two shy of the franchise record set in 2008.
Manager Bob Geren was forced to mix and match in the designated hitter spot after six-time Gold Glove third baseman Eric Chavez wound up injured yet again and played in only 33 games. Jack Cust, who played 88 games at DH in 2010, signed last week with the Seattle Mariners.
AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.