Yankees doubt team will find another "Godzilla"

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By Dan Sloan

TOKYO (Reuters) - New York Yankees executives paraded the team's World Series trophy on the first leg of an Asian tour on Monday, saying championship MVP and Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui would be difficult to replace.

Matsui, the 2009 World Series Most Valuable Player, signed a $6 million, one-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels in the offseason, ending a seven-year Yankees tenure.

General Manager Brian Cashman said bringing Matsui to New York from the 2003 season was one of his best signings for the Bronx Bombers.

"I've had some successful signings in Japan, I've had some unsuccessful signings in Japan. Hideki Matsui will be one of the best deals I ever made," he said.

"We will have future players from Japan on our roster. They will do everything in their power to try to help us win, but I doubt we'll find another Hideki Matsui."

Matsui, 35, did not attend the event.

The player nicknamed "Godzilla" hit .274 with 28 home runs and 90 RBIs as the Yankees' designated hitter last season, while amassing 140 home runs in a career limited by injuries.

Cashman said the former Yomiuri Giants star was prized by the Yankees not for his nationality, but for his skills as a player.

"We did not sign Hideki Matsui because he was Japanese, we signed him because he was a true champion and one of the world's more gifted baseball players," he said.

Team president Randy Levine also praised Matsui, adding he hoped the Yankees did not lose Japanese fans with his departure.

"We know the great allegiance to Hideki Matsui -- he deserves it. He was a great Yankee," said Levine.

"Hopefully, people will still root for the New York Yankees."

Baseball commentator and former Major League pitcher Masanori Murakami said the New York franchise would likely keep its Japanese interest.

"There's a sense of disappointment that Matsui is gone, but the Yankees' brand has attraction because of the history," he said.

The Yankees delegation will continue on to China on Tuesday, meeting with the China Baseball Association (CBA) to further a cooperation agreement.

The World Series winners created a partnership with the CBA three years ago formalizing the CBA's first strategic alliance with a Major League Baseball club.

(editing by Justin Palmer)