Be assured, the marketing angle in the Daisuke Matsuzaka sweepstakes has already begun in earnest, what with merchandising and television deals to be worked out, probably even before the Japanese import puts pen to paper on a multi-year deal with the Red Sox. A necessary carriage before the horse, if you will.
For if the Red Sox’ plan to make back the $51 million they invested in speaking with Matsuzaka and agent Scott Boras -- the most expensive 900 number we’ve ever heard of -- they need to capture the buzz while they are the beneficiary of it, worldwide.
And there is plenty of it.
The astronomical bid lends some credence to the theory that Boston has long had its eyes on Matsuzaka, and was determined to do whatever it took to get him. Imagine waiting in line Friday morning for the new and improved gaming system from overseas, only to find out they sold the last one because the folks who showed up 10 minutes before the doors opened bribed the cashier to put one aside. Theo Epstein and Co. were not about to let that happen.
It might be the latest step in the superior scouting process that the Red Sox have developed over the years in comparison to their bitter rivals from New York. Many have said that this deal signals the end of Red Sox fans being able to whine about the Yankees’ bottomless purse, opening it for the sake of what Epstein so memorably classified as an “uberteam.” Turns out, that is true, and has been for quite some time, unless you think $130 million is poor house worthy.
But it appears that the Red Sox put their work into Matsuzaka, and weren’t going to let the Yankees, or anyone else, trump that work based on what they saw less than a year ago in the World Baseball Classic.
"We're very pleased and excited. We've long admired Mr. Matsuzaka," Epstein said. "Matsuzaka has a real talent. He would be a great fit with the Red Sox organization.
In New York, the reaction is what you might expect.
“And the rest of baseball finds out how much the Red Sox are willing to pay to begin the real Big Dig in Boston,” writes Mike Lupica in the Daily News, “from the hole the Yankees threw them into last August.”
“From Boston’s standpoint, after the way their season went, I’m sure Theo and Larry Lucchino felt a need to go out and get this done,” Yankees TV guy John Flaherty told Tyler Kepner of the New York Times.
Illustrate anything to you? This wasn’t a reactionary move, something the trading deadline deals for Bobby Abreu and Roy Oswalt would have been, trades that didn’t get done, and brought down the stratospheric enthusiasm of a packed Fenway night after night. But that is the way it’s being played in New York, where the Yankees have emptied the wallet in just such a way over the past decade, picking up the latest, big name talent for whatever dollar amount in fantasy league style.
You can argue that the Red Sox have had a difficult time evaluating pitching talent, but that only goes so far. For every Matt Clement, there is a Jonathan Papelbon. If this was indeed their target for the better part of two years or so, knowing the posting process would occur this month, then the scouting department that took such a hit last season after a third-place finish, and plenty of questions, has proven itself to shine yet again.
Instant gratification is the norm in New York, an annual need to win that they’re building in Boston on the basis of a strong core of young pitching with a solid minor league system. Let’s not forget the Red Sox’ 2006 draft was ranked among the best in baseball by those in the know.
Would you rather have signed Pedro Martinez way back when, or instead have the prospects of Matsuzaka (26 years old), Josh Beckett (26) and Papelbon (26 later this month) in the rotation for years to come?
That’s instant gratification over the long term. And despite what other teams will tell you about scouting him in the WBC last March, the Red Sox have proven their scouting department to be much deeper and long term that everyone else among big-market clubs.
Of course, they still have to sign him for all that to happen.
"I think his reaction was that he is looking through the process,” Boras told the Globe’s Nick Cafardo. “He respects the Red Sox organization and he respects the Seibu Lions. He understands that this is a business relationship that he is examining this process for himself."
Uh oh. That horse better be quick.