Wait, how much?
While much of the free world remains stunned over the Red Sox' $51 million right to speak with Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka -- a price that, sorry, no matter what Andrew Zimbalist says, has long-term ramifications in overseas marketing and foreign tourism -- might we argue that some of the other dollar signs being mentioned out there on the baseball free agent market are not just bordering, but hooking up the chute and leaping over the border of insanity.
Alfonso Soriano is rumored to be asking for $20 million a season. Scott Boras is likely going to squeeze $15 million out of some team looking to make a PR splash with Barry Zito. Heck, somebody might even give Bruce Chen and Jason Johnson some sort of money. It's just that kind of crazy. Be careful out there.
So much for that market correction that was all the rage a year ago. We haven't seen a baseball winter like this since the 2000 bonanza, when Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez signed the biggest contracts in the game's history. And just to show you how crazy this hot stove season appears to be gearing up to be, the Red Sox might not end up trading Ramirez because he is considered at this point to be a $20 million bargain, while Rodriguez, Boras reminded, can opt out of his contract after next season and become a free agent unless he gets an $8 million a year raise or $1 million more than the highest-paid player. This, despite the fact that he's due only $27 million in 2008, a figure that should only be eclipsed by the number of people questioning his ability to hit in the clutch.
Rodriguez's scenario is a similar one to that of JD Drew, another Boras client, who just opted out of the remaining three years and $33 million he was due from the Dodgers in order to become a free agent. Drew is rumored to be seeking a four-year, $56 million deal, one that he might receive imminently from the Red Sox, which has fans of the Olde Towne Team wondering exactly what the supposed plan is over on Yawkey Way.
How one team can make such a mind-bendingly significant investment on Tuesday, then turn around and make another later in the week seen just as universally asinine as the previous one was praised is simply beyond comprehension.
In Matsuzaka -- excuse me, Mr. Matsuzaka -- the Red Sox are banking on creative ways to create a new audience on a global scale. In Drew, the Red Sox are guaranteed to lose some of their core audience, which is already seriously suspicious of many of their recent moves. Matsuzaka creates buzz. Guys like Drew might produce, but is anyone going to the park solely to see him work the count?
The negatives on Drew are well publicized, starting with his refusal to sign in Philadelphia, an action which still has him as Enemy No. 2 (after T.O., of course) in the City of Brotherly Love. Drew played in a career-high 146 games with the Dodgers in 2006, but has been historically unable to escape injury, playing in just 72 games for the Dodgers in 2005, only 100 for the Cardinals in '03. Last season was his first 100-RBI season ever. Ramirez had five before his landmark signing in Boston.
Perhaps most ironic in the Red Sox' misguided salivation over Drew is this: On Drew's Baseball Reference page, take a look at the No. 1 player to which his stats are most comparable. Itís none other than Trot Nixon, a player the Red Sox won't re-sign because of his perceived market value, and the ever-present injury concern only to replace him with a much more expensive option of the same ilk. This, you see, is how business is done with the Red Sox and it is maddening.
In a classic rip job following Drew's decision to test free agency last week, the LA Times' Bill Plaschke wrote, "Drew is the sort of player who hates the hassles that come with being a star. He wanted to go somewhere and do what he does best -- disappear." I'm not sure, but does that sound like a guy who might thrive under the lights and pressure of playing in Boston, considering he just came from a place where more people are obsessed with Britney than anything Dodger Blue? Should we arrange a meeting with Edgar Renteria before putting pen to paper?
On the brighter side, Drew has averaged 27 home runs and 86 RBIs in his career, numbers that make for a nifty No. 6 hitter, particularly in a period, as Plaschke's colleague TJ Simers (in a decidedly different defensive piece) puts it, without -- wink -- steroids. But at an annual $14 million per season? Is he really worth more than twice per annum what you don't want to give to Nixon any longer?
And while we're on that particular subject, it's obvious he can't play the field, but was it worth it now to give up Bronson Arroyo (who, must we remind you, won 14 games for the Reds last season) for Wily Mo Pena, the supposed outfielder of the future who seems to be destined for no more than a spot on the bench again in 2007? The more idiotic moves that the Red Sox brass continue to make, they attempt to rectify a year later, finding themselves paying even more through the nose for them.
The reason that people should be so impressed about any possible Matsuzaka deal is that other repercussions come with him. It is a business deal first, and an on-field deal as a bonus. The drastic reality though is that the on-field deals have been the major problems with this administration. While Boston's minor league and international scouting system should be praised for what it has accomplished in creating a core of talent, it can't be denied that the baseball operations team has yet to learn after moves for Renteria, Pena, and, any impending one involving, Lord help us, Julio Lugo.
It's been said the Red Sox "fall in love" with certain guys, and will do anything it takes to sign them, no matter what the downside might be. Look, I "love" watching Zito pitch, but I realize that the Red Sox signing him would be an epic mistake based on his sub-par career performances in Fenway Park and against the Yankees. For a franchise so inherently based on empirical evidence, the Sox sure seem to follow their heart down the wrong path a lot more than using their minds to make decisions.
And the mind should tell you that sinking $56 million into Drew should be questioned, yet the Red Sox seem in a rush to sign a guy Theo Epstein has historically loved. Let's not forget, the Sox refused to offer more than $40 million to Johnny Damon last winter. At the time, Damon was just one year older than Drew is this winter, and it was a decision that broke a lot of hearts as well. Was Drew really part of "the plan" back then? And if he was, then there are some other serious tampering questions that need to be addressed as well.
Then again, it's quite obvious that everyone in baseball has quite simply lost their collective minds. Why should the Red Sox be any different?