At the beginning of the 2000s, the Japanese player market began to attract the attention of the MLB after the explosion generated by the arrival of Ichiro Suzuki to the Seattle Mariners in 2001. The following season the New York Yankees signed Hideki Matsui, who became a star in the Bronx. By 2003, the New York Mets were not going to be defeated by their neighbors and decided to sign another Japanese baseball star.
The Mets signed Higashi-Osaka native Kazuo Matsui to a 3-year, $20 million deal. He had just won four gold gloves, batted over .300 in more than seven seasons, and averaged more than 30 homers in the last two years before this signing. For the Queen's team, it seemed that they had found a player with all five tools.
Kazuo Matsui turned out to be one of the biggest busts in Mets history
Kaz debuted with decent numbers in his first year with a .279 average but with little power despite hitting a home run in his first at-bat. He finished with only seven home runs with an OPS+ of just 89. However, he finished sixth in the voting for Rookie of the Year.
One of the biggest failures of that first season was his defense. Matsui caused the young Jose Reyes to move to second base hurting Reyes' potential, while Kaz committed 23 errors at shortstop in his first season in 2004. The Mets changed the approach and, for the following season, Reyes returned to his natural position while Matsui moved to second base.
In a span of two years later, Matsui's career was plagued by injuries and poor performances. Between 2005 and 2006, he averaged just .256 with four home runs and only eight stolen bases in 102 games. This terrible performance caused the patience of the Mets management to end, proceeding to trade him and cash to the Colorado Rockies for Eli Marrero.
The trade was a disaster. Marrero did not produce for the Mets while Matsui had a slight career awakening in Colorado hitting above .300 over the next two years. He then finished his career with Houston finishing with both teams with better numbers than he posted with the team that brought him to the MLB.
Many signings have gone wrong in Mets history but given the hype surrounding his signing and his ultimate performance, he has been the worst shortstop signing on the team. The case of Kaz Matsui ends up being incredible considering that he is the only Met to hit a home run in his first turn in three consecutive seasons. Great record on one hand but a terrible performance on everything else.