San Diego Padres Sign Successor To Closer Josh Hader

The San Diego Padres have appeared to have found their successor to closer Josh Hader, as they are nearing a significant addition to their roster with the anticipated signing of Yuki Matsui, a talented left-handed relief pitcher from Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB).

Matsui, 28 years old, brings a wealth of experience from his 10 years in the NPB, where he has amassed an impressive career earned run average (ERA) of 2.40 over 501 games, totaling 659.2 innings.

Notably, he has recorded 236 saves, including at least 24 in each of the past three seasons.

His performance in the 2023 season was particularly outstanding, achieving a 1.57 ERA with 39 saves, striking out 32.4% of the batters he faced while maintaining a low walk rate of 5.9%​.

Matsui's signing with the Padres is noteworthy for several reasons.

He reached free agency after accruing nine years of service time in Japan, which means he is not tied to any NPB club and thus does not require a posting fee for the MLB club signing him.

His playing style includes a four-pitch mix of a fastball, splitter, slider, and curveball.

Despite some challenges adapting to the ball used in the World Baseball Classic, which is similar to the MLB standard, Matsui's potential and versatility have clearly piqued the interest of MLB teams.

The Padres are likely looking to Matsui as a cost-effective yet potentially high-impact addition to their pitching staff​, who could take over Hader's role as the closer.

Matsui's prospective contract with the Padres would mark his first foray into the MLB.

San Diego, coming off an 82-80 season where they missed the 2023 MLB playoffs, is seen as a team with postseason aspirations, a factor likely appealing to Matsui.

His experience as a high-performing closer with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, including being a five-time NPB All-Star with a 2.43 ERA during his tenure, aligns well with the Padres' needs.

Despite his relatively small stature for a pitcher at 5'8" and 165 pounds, Matsui's effectiveness, especially his "plus splitter" and a fastball that reaches up to 96 mph, makes him a promising addition to the MLB.

However, concerns about his career walk rate of 10.9% and his performance with the MLB-standard ball in international competition may present challenges as he adjusts to the MLB​​. Photo Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports