Notes: Matsui ignoring rumors -- for now
Yankees designate outfielder Sardinha for assignment
NEW YORK -- Hideki Matsui may be aware of rumors linking him to interest from the San Francisco Giants, but the outfielder is proceeding as though he'll be back in the Bronx next season.
Reports surfaced late last week that the Giants had inquired about the availability of Matsui. Since the 33-year-old Matsui has a full no-trade clause blanketing the remaining two years of his contract with New York, he would need to approve any potential deal.
Matsui's agent, Arn Tellem, has said that the Yankees have not contacted him about waiving the clause, a statement that Matsui echoed in an interview Saturday with the Japanese daily newspaper Sankei Sports.
"I have not heard anything from the Yankees and my agent," Matsui said. "I can not comment about any reports or rumors. I am going to think about [the no-trade clause] only when the team or my agent calls me. All I can do right now is to prepare for next season. Especially I have to rehab for my right knee during this offseason."
San Francisco's interest in Matsui makes sense on a number of levels. An icon in his native Japan, "Godzilla" has driven in more than 100 runs in four of his five Major League seasons since joining the Yankees, including the past season.
In 143 games, he batted .285 with 25 home runs and 103 RBIs in 2007, seeing duty as New York's left fielder and designated hitter while being slowed with a right knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery after the season.
While Matsui would likely become one of the Giants' most productive hitters -- despite potentially seeing an offensive drop-off with a transition to AT&T Park -- he would also be a huge draw in the China Basin for a club looking to retain attendance after the departure of franchise icon Barry Bonds and coming off a 91-loss campaign.
At this point in the offseason, the Yankees view acquiring pitching as their main objective, having made a publicized run at Twins ace Johan Santana only to pull out of discussions during last week's Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn.
While the Giants have thus far resisted dealing young pitchers Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, it is believed that dangling Matsui could net New York left-hander Noah Lowry. The 27-year-old Lowry was 14-8 with a 3.92 ERA in 26 starts for the Giants last season, allowing 156 hits while walking 87 and striking out 87 over 156 innings.
The Yankees could also have interest in left-hander Jonathan Sanchez. The 25-year-old was 1-5 with a 5.88 ERA in 33 games for the Giants. He started four games, but could also represent yet another addition to a bullpen mix that figures to see heavy competition in Spring Training.
Dealing Matsui could also serve to free up salary that could be used for other players, including but not limited to a second chase after Santana, who is still in a Twins uniform but remains on the block.
More in relief: The Yankees have also checked in on Japanese free agent Kazuo Fukumori, according to a report in Newsday.
Fukumori's agent, Alan Nero, met with Yankees assistant general manager Jean Afterman earlier this week, putting the team in a group of about 10 clubs to express interest in the right-hander. Fukumori, 33, is believed to be seeking a two-year deal, coming off a campaign as the closer for the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Bombers bits: The Yankees designated outfielder Bronson Sardinha for assignment on Saturday to clear room for left-hander Andy Pettitte, who made his return official by accepting the team's offer of salary arbitration. Sardinha, 24, played 10 games in September for New York, batting .333 (3-for-9). ... The Yankees will need to clear two additional spots on their 40-man roster when the signings of Mariano Rivera and Alex Rodriguez become official. While reported for weeks, those deals are still awaiting the completion of final contract language before they can be officially announced. ... One of those roster spots may be Carl Pavano's. The New York Post reported that the Yankees plan to release Pavano from the final year of his four-year, $39.95 million deal and then re-sign him to a Minor League contract for insurance purposes.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.