Matsui a Major Factor in Giles' Decision

Events in New York and St. Louis become intertwined as Brian Walton updates the rumor mill.

I have learned that San Diego Padres outfielder Brian Giles has a firm offer in hand from the St. Louis Cardinals that would reportedly bring him $27.5 million over three years. All details are in place and now the Cardinals seem to be in wait-and-see mode.

There are apparently two primary situations that must be resolved before Giles agrees to the Cardinals offer, either of which could derail the proposed union.

The first is standard protocol for those players who sincerely don't want to leave their old club. That is right of refusal. I have been told that Giles has agreed to give the Padres one last chance to match the best offer he and his agent, Joe Bick, can come up from another team.

So far, the Padres' top bid to Giles has reportedly been three years, $25.5 million, an amount that Bick said was "not close" to closing a deal with his client.

The second, and far more concerning scenario is developing on the East Coast, where New York Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui and his agent, Arn Tellem, are in deep negotiations with the Pinstripers' general manager Brian Cashman.

Matsui, 31, signed a $21 million, three-year contract three years ago and since then has put up impressive numbers as the Yanks' left fielder. Last season, he batted .305 with 23 home runs with 116 RBI and is considered a very solid outfielder. Matsui's original MLB contract contains a stipulation that New York either has to re-sign him by November 15 or put him on waivers for his unconditional release.

If Matsui would come onto the open market this coming week, there are at least two possible results. Likely, neither of them would be good for the Cardinals.

First, Giles would no longer be the top free-agent corner outfielder available. That would likely both slow Giles' decision and perhaps bring his asking price up, sort of like as when all boats float higher as the water level increases. Other clubs may then re-assess their interest in Giles. Surely with Matsui expected to fetch a higher salary than Giles, his signing could help drive up Giles' contract terms.

The other situation that could develop if Matsui became a free agent would be a death knell for the Cardinals' offer to Giles. With Matsui gone, the Yankees, with the deepest pockets in the Major Leagues, would be in dire need of a power-hitting left fielder as well as a quick public relations strike to soften the blow of losing the popular Matsui. Three years and $30 million for George Steinbrenner to drop into Giles' lap would be pocket change.

You can bet that Giles is going to sit tight until the Matsui situation comes to conclusion. The good news is that will absolutely be no later than this coming Thursday. The 15th is the drop-dead date for Matsui and the Yanks because MLB's rules dictate that he cannot re-sign with them until May 15 once he is released. So, the motivation is clearly there.

In all honesty, there is a third major snafu possible. At this point in his career, much like Larry Walker two years ago, Giles is looking for what may be his last significant opportunity to earn a World Series ring. For that reason, teams like Seattle won't have a real chance with Giles, but if a team like the Boston Red Sox or Los Angeles Dodgers swoop in with an offer that would knock Giles off his feet; that could be an entirely different matter. While the press have mentioned both the Sox and Dodgers as having interest in Giles, neither currently has a general manager. That factor is clearly in the Cardinals' favor in terms of trying to close a deal quickly.

My prediction: Matsui returns to the Yankees on a multi-year deal that will average somewhere around $11 or $12 million per season. The Dodgers and Red Sox don't make substantive offers to Giles. Because of the Matsui contract, the Cardinals have to sweeten their bid a bit over the $9+ million per year deal on the table. The Padres decline to match the Cardinals' offer and he joins the Redbirds for the 2006 through 2008 seasons.

Of course, this all could change, perhaps dramatically…

You can bet that Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty knows all of this already and a lot more and as a result, won't be sleeping very well for the next few nights.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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