The Hanshin Tigers have signed Marcos Mateo (31) to a one-year,¥75-million deal, Sanspo.com reported on Thursday. The Dominican, who played for the Padres last season, boasts a 158 km/h fastball and a perfect 0.00 ERA in the Dominican Winter League this offseason. He will wear #38 and is considered a prime candidate to take over the closer role, replacing Korean closer Seung-hwan Oh.
Speaking of Oh, it has been reported that if he chooses to play professional baseball in Korea, he may, but he will only be allowed to play in half of his team’s games. I do not see this being a problem, as he is a reliever and would not appear in more than half anyways. However, if it means that his team must remove him from the active roster for half the team’s games, that would mean he would only be on the active roster for half, and play in roughly half of those. (For those who missed it, Oh has admitted to gambling overseas – which is against Korean law. The Tigers gave up negotiating a new contract with him when it was unknown how long the ordeal would drag out.)
Back to the new closer: Mateo says he is excited to be a part of the Tigers organization. He also commented that he has been following NPB for awhile because lots of his fellow countrymen play in Japan now. He is looking forward to playing on the same team as Mauro Gomez and Dominicans (the team also has Nelson Perez on the farm and is rumored to be interested in Rafael Dolis as well).
Manager Tomoaki Kanemoto has said that Mateo will be considered for the closer’s role but it is not guaranteed. He also said that he is looking at his imports with the long term in mind – whatever that means. (I hope it means patience through the adjustment period, and commitment to their development just as much as he is committed to the Japanese players.) Mateo expressed a willingness to give his all no matter what role the manager gives to him.
All the best to you, Mr. Mateo. Can’t wait to see you at Koshien, and maybe even next month in Okinawa!