Hideki Matsui's seven-year career with the Yankees, one filled with big hits and capped by an otherworldly performance in this year's World Series, officially came to an end Monday when the designated hitter agreed in principle to a one-year contract with the Angels.
Matsui, 35, who hit .274 this season with 28 homers and 90 RBIs in 142 games, made it clear that he badly wanted to stay with the only team he has played for in the majors, but the Yankees didn't feel as strongly about keeping him.
They did have an interest in bringing back the World Series MVP, who hit .615 with three homers and eight RBIs - including a record-tying six in the clinching Game 6 - but as free agency began, their priorities were elsewhere.
At the top of general manager Brian Cashman's list was re-signing Andy Pettitte and solidifying the outfield. He got both done at last week's winter meetings, signing Pettitte to a one-year deal and trading for centerfielder Curtis Granderson.
The Yankees still want to bring back Johnny Damon, who would be a part-time DH and part-time leftfielder, but the sides have different visions on contract length and dollars.
Damon's agent, Scott Boras, wants a three-year deal; the Yankees don't want to go above a two-year offer that likely would amount to a pay cut. Damon made $13 million in 2009.
Should the negotiations become a stalemate, the Yankees could move on and sign Mark DeRosa, in whom they've expressed interest. They also were interested in outfielder Mike Cameron, but he reached agreement on a two-year contract with the Red Sox yesterday, subject to a physical, according to a person familiar with those negotiations.
The Yankees were willing to wait and see what the market would bring for Matsui, who - with two bad knees that kept him from playing the outfield at all last season - didn't figure to get too many early offers.
Matsui and his agent, Arn Tellem, began to look around and the Angels were among the small handful of teams that reportedly were interested. Matsui, signed by the Yankees out of the Japanese leagues, where he was a larger-than-life figure, agreed to go with the Angels, who reportedly will pay him about $6.5 million.
Coincidentally, the Yankees' home opener, April 13, is against the Angels.
All of that, however, was mostly overshadowed on a day when baseball knocked football from the headlines.
The Blue Jays' Roy Halladay reportedly was dealt to the Phillies in a three-way trade in which Cliff Lee was sent to Seattle. And the biggest-name free-agent pitcher, John Lackey, agreed to terms with the Red Sox, subject to a physical.
The Yankees did little more than kick the tires on Lackey, and with the Blue Jays' asking price for Halladay - Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain to go along with top hitting prospect Jesus Montero - about the same as it was at last July's trade deadline, the Yankees again passed.
Notes & quotes: The Yankees have dispatched scouts to Houston to watch free-agent pitcher Aroldis Chapman, the Cuban lefty with a triple-digit fastball, throw a bullpen session today.
Cashman said at last week's winter meetings that Chapman "would not be a guy we're looking at in 2010 in our rotation," but the Yankees - along with a bevy of other teams, including the Mets and Red Sox - have an interest in the pitcher, whom scouts don't believe is major league-ready yet but has a big upside. The Red Sox on Monday reportedly made the first known offer to Chapman, a deal worth $15.5 million.