When the New York Mets signed Daisuke Matsuzaka off the scrap heap in 2013, nobody expected they would get too much out of the 33-year-old right-hander. After another stellar start against the Milwaukee Brewers, it’s clear the Mets made out like bandits.
Not only has Matsuzaka pitched well as a reliever, a role he’s never held, but he’s performed exceptionally well when given the occasional start. Considering they signed him to a minor-league contract worth $1.5 million (should he make the team), I don’t think anyone in the front office is complaining.
Matsuzaka pitched very well in Spring Training and was devastated to learn that he didn’t make the cut. Instead of hanging his head, he went to work for Triple-A Las Vegas and quickly made his way back to the majors.
Matsuzaka, at one time in his career, was making more than $10 million per year with the Boston Red Sox. When the Red Sox first acquired Dice-K before the 2007 season, they were forced to bid more than $50 million to get him. Interestingly enough, it was the Mets who placed the second-highest bid, somewhere in the $40 million range.
Matsuzaka won a World Series with the Sox in 2007 and reached his peak as a pitcher in 2008, finishing with an 18-3 record and a 2.90 ERA. He failed to perform at nearly that level during the rest of his tenure with Boston (2009-2012).
Matsuzaka is at his most effective when he works quickly and throws strikes. While that may sound obvious, it’s especially true for Dice-K, who oftentimes struggles with control. As well as he’s pitched this season, Dice-K still walks too many batters. In 39.2 innings pitched in 2014, Matsuzaka has walked 28 hitters. That’s pretty much an unacceptable number. However, he’s saved himself by keeping the ball in the yard. Dice-K has only allowed one home run this year.
The Mets are lucky to have Dice-K. He’s a reliable arm who can pitch in a multitude of situations with the same level of professionalism. As a veteran of two different leagues with championship experience, his knowledge is invaluable to a club with so many young players.
His value may extend beyond this season too. The Mets aren’t going to be contenders in 2014 – that much is obvious – but there will definitely be teams looking for veteran arms down the stretch. Dice-K has pitched well enough to become trade bait, and the Mets could get a valuable piece or two for the man nobody else wanted.