Kaz Matsui's starting role at second base became tenuous when Bret Boone agreed to a minor league contract with the New York Mets on Wednesday.
A three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner, Boone's career has plummeted since the 2003 season. He was cut by the Seattle Mariners on July 3, dealt to Minnesota eight days later, then released on Aug 1. He batted .221 with seven homers and 37 RBIs in 326 plate appearances.
"I don't know if he could rebound, but to bring in guy with his history on a minor league contract, I figured what is there to lose?" Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "There's something about Bret that I've always liked. He wants to prove that last year was not his year."
If added to the 40-man roster, the 36-year-old Boone would get a US$1 million salary and the chance to make US$500,000 in performance bonuses, a fraction of the US$9.25 million he earned last year.
Matsui has had two subpar seasons with the Mets, hitting .255 with three homers and 24 RBIs. He was on the disabled list from mid-June to Aug. 9 because of a bruised left knee, and there has been repeated speculation that New York will trade him. He is owed US$8 million this year, complicating any trade talks.
Boone hit 19 or more homers in seven straight seasons through 2003 and topped 100 RBIs from 2001-2003.
Minaya said manager Willie Randolph will decide on the starter.
"Matsui's got to go out there and play. It's not that Matsui has the job won," Minaya said. "You try to say that Matsui last year had an off year. He was injured part of the year, and I think if you ask Willie today, there's a competition out there."
The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired South Korean right-hander Seo Jae in a four-man trade with the New York Mets.
Seo and left-handed reliever Tim Hamulack were swapped by New York for right-handed relievers Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll.
The 28-year-old Seo made 14 starts for the Mets last season, going 8-2 with a 2.59 ERA. He walked 16 and struck out 59 in 90 1-3 innings. He also was 7-4 with a 4.29 ERA in 19 starts for Triple-A Norfolk, Virginia.
"Seo's going to get a chance to start," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "He had a real good year with the Mets and in Triple-A, pitched close to 200 innings. Seo is a no-frills guy who knows how to pitch."
Seo, who went 5-10 with a 4.90 ERA in 2004, has a 22-24 career record and 3.85 ERA in 66 starts and five relief appearances, all with the Mets.
"This gives us a little more depth in the starting rotation," Colletti said. "I don't think this will prohibit us from getting another starter in either free agency or in a trade. One more would be good. I think we have a rotation now that's capable of throwing 180 innings, 200, 210 through all five starters."