The A's can only hope their play in 2011 generates the type of media stir they created with Tuesday's introduction of their new designated hitter.

Close to 200 people -- a large majority from Japanese media outlets -- crammed into the Oakland Coliseum's interview room for the arrival of Hideki Matsui, who signed a one-year, $4.25 million contract and became just the third Japanese player to wear an A's uniform.

"Holy cow," A's general manager Billy Beane said, surveying the scene as he took his seat next to Matsui.

Oakland's floundering offense instantly becomes more credible with Matsui, 36, who is past his prime but still will command pitchers' respect in the middle of the order.

But given last season's offensive struggles by the A's, Matsui alone might not be enough for the team to generate more runs. And Beane said more moves might come.

"This is a good step," Beane said of Matsui's addition. "We still have a lot of offseason left, and we're going to continue to improve other areas of the club, not just offense. "... (But) certainly offense will be the focus."

He left open the possibility of swinging a trade to improve the team rather than relying solely on free agency, an about-face from the team's stated intentions earlier this winter.

"It's getting a little late (to sign free agents)," Beane said. "There's not a lot of guys out there, but there are some guys we have some interest in. "... We have to be open-minded to (possible trades). But the first guys people ask for are our pitchers. We're going to hold on to those guys as much as we can."

The A's have just $35,447,500 committed to their 2011 payroll, although salaries for five players eligible for arbitration will increase that figure, so they are in good shape to sign more free agents.

But they're reluctant to sign hitters who might make them weaker defensively, even though a lack of offense is their most glaring shortcoming.

A source confirmed the A's have talked with free-agent pitcher Rich Harden -- who spent five-plus injury-prone seasons with the team (2003-08).

Their biggest offseason catch so far is Matsui, the 2009 World Series MVP with the nickname "Godzilla." Before signing with the New York Yankees in 2003, he built a reputation as the top power hitter in Japan's professional leagues.

He hit .274 with 21 homers and 84 RBIs last season with the Los Angeles Angels, and A's manager Bob Geren said Matsui will hit fourth or fifth.

"I really look forward to this team," Matsui said through his interpreter, Roger Kahlon. "There's definitely a strong possibility for us to make the postseason."

He shared that he was a fan of the "Bash Brothers"-era A's while a teenager in Japan, though he confessed he had no idea Beane played for those teams.

He did say he's read "Moneyball," and asked for his impression of Beane from afar, Matsui offered: "He's not like a general manager. I feel he's like somebody you meet in the financial district in San Francisco."

In attendance Tuesday was Hiroshi Inomata, the Consul General of Japan in San Francisco. And there's thought the A's could benefit from a marketing standpoint from Matsui's global appeal.

Matsui said he's hopeful his presence will bring more Asian fans to A's games.

Beane was asked if Matsui's potential payoff from a marketing standpoint factored into the motivation to sign him.

"I think (Tuesday's turnout) shows you people are interested in Hideki Matsui around the world," Beane said. "That in itself is good. (But) people come out to watch him as a baseball player, first and foremost."

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Designated upgrade
How the A's players with the most at-bats as a designated hitter fared (DH statistics only) and Hideki Matsui's numbers as a DH with the Angels in 2010:
Player G AB H 2B 3B HR RBI K AVG OBP
Jack Cust 90 299 80 16 0 13 49 112 .268 .390
Eric Chavez 31 109 26 8 0 1 9 29 239 .283
A's DH totals 153 552 136 30 1 15 74 172 .246 .338
Hideki Matsui 120 418 110 21 1 16 61 88 .263 .354