If they were fleeced by Scott Boras in giving J.D. Drew a five-year, $70 million deal with no other teams bidding, the Red Sox have evened the score with Daisuke Matsuzaka.
The Sox did two impressive things during negotiations with Boras -- they stood by their belief that Matsuzaka was not returning to the Seibu Lions after having asked to be posted, and when calls weren't returned and proposals went unanswered this week, they, in the words of Sox principal owner John Henry, "brought the negotiations to Scott's doorstep."
Whether the six-year deal worth $52 million (and potentially up to $60 million with escalator clauses) would not have been consummated had the Sox brass not hopped on Henry's jet Monday for face-to-face negotiations is subject to conjecture. Fact is, the deal was far closer to the $7 million to $8 million per year the Sox pushed for than the $15 million to $17 million per year Boras thought the pitcher was worth, and everything will be finalized today at a 5 p.m. press conference at Fenway Park after Matsuzaka passes his medical tests.
The Sox also got a thumbs-up from former major league third baseman Mike Pagliarulo, who for years has run a sophisticated scouting service for international players, with emphasis on the Pacific Rim. Pagliarulo, who grew up in Medford, had watched the Matsuzaka situation closely because he had inside knowledge of the talented pitcher.
Pagliarulo also recommends what a Japanese player is worth to a major league team by using complicated formulas. Pagliarulo's service has been used by major league and Japanese teams, but the Red Sox aren't among his clientele.
When asked what he would have recommended as a posting figure for Matsuzaka, Pagliarulo said, "Fifty million. That's what I had written down long before the figures came out. That was based on the talent level of the player, the market for the player, and the value of the player to a team. The Red Sox did an excellent job in finding that value. They really did their homework."
Pagliarulo, who played for Seibu and was a teammate of current Lions manager Tsutomu Ito, is close to the Seibu ownership. He knew there was zero chance Matsuzaka was returning to Seibu. Pagliarulo also said that if Matsuzaka tried to return to Seibu, the team would not allow him to be posted again next season.
Pagliarulo figured that at some point Matsuzaka must have told Boras to get a deal done.
"In the end the Red Sox have given Matsuzaka a very fair contract," Pagliarulo said. "The Red Sox probably could have saved themselves some money, but I think their offer was a fair gesture of good will given the quality of the player.
"And that's not to disrespect Scott Boras because I respect what he's done for players so much. It's not that Mr. Boras had no leverage. He had the leverage of having a very good player and talent that the Red Sox really wanted to sign. I wasn't privy to any of the negotiations so I don't know what took place. But in the end I think common sense prevailed based on what's in place for a posted player."
Pagliarulo has watched Matsuzaka closely the past few years. "I only scouted him when the proper matchups were in place," he said. "If you're scouting him haphazardly against any hitter or team, you're wasting your time. I wanted to see how he reacted against top hitters and I analyzed his strikes in the strike zone. The thing about him is he wants the baseball. He wants to pitch in the biggest stage and in the biggest game.
"If you beat him, he's not fazed by that. He comes right back at the next hitter. He's a winner. He'a tough kid on the mound and I think that should translate very well to the majors."
But will he struggle at first?
"He's a rookie," Pagliarulo said. "He's going to go through his growth spurts. But this is a kid who adjusts very quickly. The major leagues is different than the Japanese leagues, but he has command of his pitches and that should get hitters out anywhere."
The Sox now have a young, formidable rotation featuring three 26-year-olds entering their primes, but adjustments are still being made. Matsuzaka must assimilate to American culture and adapt to the major leagues. Jonathan Papelbon must recondition himself as a starter. Josh Beckett is still learning how to pitch effectively in the American League and use his offspeed stuff better.
With Matsuzaka aboard, the Sox have recovered nicely from the 2006 season. The finalization of Drew's contract is imminent. Julio Lugo should be a force offensively, and as Mets GM Omar Minaya has said, "He's one of the best shortstops in the game."
The last missing piece is the closer. The Sox may try to wrest Mike Gonzalez from the Pirates, or give Chan Ho Park, another Boras client, a chance.
Then, of course, there's Roger Clemens, who has an open invitation to join the team. He would be a very good addition in June or July, when the rotation might be in need of a lift.
But on a rainy day in December, the Red Sox got themselves the grand prize -- fair and square.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.