Left-handed reliever Yuki Matsui and the San Diego Padres are in agreement on a five-year, $28 million contract, the first money spent by the Padres this winter after a free agent splurge last year.
San Diego revealed the deal on Saturday night but did not disclose terms.
Matsui, 28, has been a frontline closer in Japan for almost all of his decade-long career with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. He has saved 236 matches and posted a 2.40 ERA over 659.2 innings, striking out 860 and walking 295. In 2023, he saved a career-best 39 games and punched out 72 with just 13 walks in 57.1 innings.
The deal includes opt-outs after the third and fourth seasons for Matsui, sources said. If Matsui suffers a serious elbow injury during the deal, the Padres can convert the fifth guaranteed year into a club option for $7 million.
After an offseason in which they’ve shed nearly $100 million from last year’s payroll via trades and players who hit free agency, the Padres will bolster a bullpen that lost closer Josh Hader and right-hander Nick Martinez to free agency, traded right-hander Scott Barlow and nontendered left-hander Tim Hill.
Last winter, San Diego spent nearly $400 million on free agents, headlined by Xander Bogaerts’ 11-year, $280 million deal.
Matsui’s deal is only the third free agent contract of five years for a reliever in Major League Baseball, joining teammate Robert Suarez, who signed for five years and $46 million last winter, and New York Mets closer Edwin Diaz, who is entering the second season of a five-year, $102 million deal.
It is also the most money given to a relief pitcher this winter, though the best relievers on the market — Hader and right-handers Jordan Hicks, Robert Stephenson and Hector Neris — have yet to sign.
San Diego, with new manager Mike Shildt, came into the winter with significant budget restrictions after spending $255 million on their payroll and being hit with a $39.7 million luxury-tax bill on top of it. The Padres traded star outfielder Juan Soto to the New York Yankees, and before signing Matsui, their opening day 2024 payroll projected to around $148.4 million, according to Baseball Prospectus.
At 5-foot-8, Matsui is far from an imposing presence on the mound, but his fastball sits at 92 mph, runs up to 95 mph and has strong carry from a low arm slot. He also throws a split-fingered fastball and an occasional slider, according to evaluators.