In theory, it's worth every penny. Still, something isn't quite right.
It's now been three days since ESPN.com's Buster Olney reported that the Red Sox very well might have submitted a record posting bid of $38 million-$45 million for the right to negotiate with Japanese pitching phenom Daisuke Matsuzaka, far higher than the supposed $25 million that most expected would be the ceiling.
That's mostly because a big market team like the Red Sox can smell the overseas marketing abilities attached to signing a guy like Matsuzaka. The Yankees and Mariners have reaped the benefits over the years of being able to market themselves in Japan, thanks to the presences of Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui. Matsuzaka's wife is a sports reporter in Japan, which would seem a natural fit for NESN as a correspondent, selling the product with someone the country is already familiar with.
But, for all the hype surrounding him, what if he's no good?
We've seen this sort of excitement surrounding athletes from the Far East, most notably in Matsui and Ichiro, who both panned out as terrific major leaguers. Then again, Hideki Irabu and Kaz Matsui didn't exactly tear up the American landscape. And in fact, the name Irabu might play into all this far more than anyone would hope.
The man who Yankees owner George Steinbrenner once likened to a fat toad was the first Japanese ballplayer to insist that he would only play for the Yankees, despite the fact that the San Diego Padres had won the bidding process for the pitcher's services. The Padres ended up dealing off Irabu to the Yankees for Rafael Medina, Ruben Rivera, and $3 million in cash.
What's to say Matsuzaka doesn't do the same?
Recent reports surrounding Matsuzaka have suggested that if the team with the highest bid could not come to an agreement with the pitcher on a contract, that team would be able to pull off a sign-and-trade deal for Matsuzaka. His agent, Scott Boras, has reportedly told teams that his client would prefer to play in New York.
If Matsuzaka insists he will play for the Yankees only, his insistence could have a far-reaching effect on plenty of entities, particularly considering the Red Sox are certainly not going to trade a potential No. 1 ace to their direct rivals.
1. The Red Sox would lose out on one of the top pitchers on the market this offseason.
2. The Yankees would be unable to negotiate with Matsuzaka since the Red Sox hold the exclusive rights.
3. Matsuzaka would have to return to Japan to play another season.
4. The Seibu Lions would lose out on a potential blockbuster bid.
5. Any aborted attempt to sell off Matsuzaka could have an effect in the way MLB clubs do business with Japanese baseball in the future.
If it were anybody else, we'd have to assume commissioner Bud Selig would likely persuade the club to work a sign-and-trade rather than hold everybody else under the gun. But even he would have to realize the unlikelihood of Boston and New York making any sort of trade, never mind one involving the Japanese ace.
The Lions are expected to announce whether they will accept the amount of the winning bid tonight. The club does not know yet the identity of which team made the bid. Soon after that, one Major League Baseball team will find out if its risk was worth the reward. If the Red Sox lose out on the bid, there is still a chance they could get involved in the bidding for lefthanded starter Kei Igawa, who is one year older than Matsuzaka and was 14-9 last season with a 2.97 ERA. However, the losers in the Matsuzaka sweepstakes are sure to go head-to-head with other teams overpaying for the likes of Barry Zito.
For all the cash involved, one team will have a prime opportunity to sell themselves on an international stage. But only if he pitches well. And though many project him to be at least as good as a No. 2, he missed all of 2002 with an elbow injury, has thrown more than 1,400 innings at the age of 26, and will have to pitch more in the majors, as in Japan, pitchers take the mound just once a week.
The Red Sox may very well win the bid, but that means very little at this stage of the game.