SAN DIEGO - While Matt Williams on Sunday began considering whether he wants to continue his career, his former Diamondbacks teammates bemoaned his departure.
Williams, 37, was designated for assignment after Saturday's game to make room on the roster for new third baseman Shea Hillenbrand. Arizona has 10 days to release or trade Williams, although a trade seems unlikely with Williams’ $10 million salary and no-trade clause.
“There's some gas left in the tank,” Williams said. “How much? I don't know. I'm healthy for the first time in a long time. I'll weigh all of this.”
Said D-Backs manager Bob Brenly: “I think there's teams out there that have a need, and I think Matty still has some baseball left in him. Defensively he's as good as he ever was. Physically he's in the best shape he's been in the past four or five years.”
If Williams is released, any team can sign him for the prorated portion of the $300,000 minimum salary. Arizona is responsible for the rest of his contract, about $6.56 million over the rest of the season.
The Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs — managed by old Williams friend Dusty Baker — have been looking for help at third base.
Williams, who is 50th all-time with 378 career homers, said it would have to be “a perfect scenario” to continue his career with another team. He vetoed a trade to Colorado in November because he wanted to continue to live in Scottsdale with his three children, of whom he has custody.
“I know it's summertime,” he said. “but the season runs into school, especially if it's a playoff contender. I think I'm going to sit and meet with (the kids). It's just a matter of what makes sense.”
His family situation also includes his engagement to Ch. 3 anchor/reporter Erika Monroe, which he confirmed Sunday.
Williams found out Friday the team planned to cut him by the time Hillenbrand reported Sunday. So when he went up to pinch hit in Saturday's game, he knew it was almost certainly his last action for Arizona — and he responded with an RBI double in his 7,000th career at-bat.
“I don't know if I've ever prayed so hard for somebody to get a base hit as I was (Saturday) night when Matty was up there at the plate,” Brenly said.
“It made for a perfect ending,” pitcher Curt Schilling said.
Williams said he did not approach it as his possible last at-bat.
“It's really a difficult situation because nobody wants to leave a team like this,” he said. “You want to leave on your own terms. But it's nice to know what that final at-bat ended up being.”
Williams was the last player in the organization from the 1998 opening-day roster. Outfielder David Dellucci is the only remaining Diamondback who played in that inaugural season.
Brenly said informing Williams of the decision was “tough” but that “it was necessary to make a change.” As of 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Williams said, he had not heard from general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. nor managing general partner Jerry Colangelo.
Mark Grace was hit particularly hard by Williams’ departure, having first played against him 17 years ago in the Class A Midwest League. Grace sees Williams as a peer, so the possible end of Williams’ career is “a big wake-up call. That day is going to come for all of us.”
Said Grace: “I told him that he's the most professional baseball player that I've ever played against or with. Seeing that locker next to mine either empty or with someone else in it is going to be difficult for me.”
Schilling said “it was hard to watch” the frequent booing of Williams at Bank One Ballpark the past few years and said the team's handling of the attempted trade to Colorado was “disrespectful.”
“Everybody in the game respects Matt Williams,” Schilling said. “Matt Williams played the game the way you hope your kid grows up and plays the game. He's one of those guys that when I'm done playing I will have been proud to say I've had as a teammate, (along with) Cal Ripken Jr., Dale Murphy, Lenny Dykstra.
“I envisioned it being different for him at the end.”