Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The $51.1 Million Man!!!

November 15th Update: $51.1 BID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Step one complete. The winner of the 2006 Daisuke Matsuzaka Sweepstakes is………

……the Boston Red Sox, at a price of $51 million. In a huge shocker, the Red Sox have splashed a huge wad of cash on Japan’s finest pitcher, and effectively blocked their rivals from acquiring him. The addition of Matsuzaka does a number of other things as well. It gives Boston an inroad to the lucrative Asian market. It fills a rotation spot with a player of scintillating potential. I’ve written on a number of occasions that any team who spends more than $20 million per season on a pitcher is going overboard. I ruffled the feathers of Red Sox fans in saying so, but I seek to be consistent. I would have said this regarding any team that produced such an unprecedented expenditure, including the Yankees. I’ll clarify my opinion a bit more.

Who is the most free-spending, big wallet in baseball? The Yankees. Is it good for the sport? Opinions vary, depending on their source. I say, no. The Yankees $200 million budget makes a mockery of the competitive nature of the league. The net $50 million a year loss that the team is taking is made up in other places, but is also a testament to the Steinbrenner commitment to overspending to win. As a Yankee fan, I enjoy the benefits of this situation, but as a baseball fan I don’t see how it is good for the sport in any way. There are plenty of examples of how this works to the detriment of baseball, originating in the Bronx. I also see other examples, however, and feel that I should point them out, regardless of the source. The Alex Rodriguez signing in Texas was a blotch on the financial ledger of free agency. The Yankees signing of Jason Giambi was another such pockmark. The Red Sox signing of Matsuzaka may also rank as one of those obscene moments in professional sports that leaves people with a bitter taste in their mouths.

Before this becomes a Red Sox/Yankees thing, and before more people accuse me of being an idiot, incapable of lateral thinking, let me say this. I recognize that the new marketing opportunities that this bid produced for the Red Sox offset some of the cost. I recognize that a commodity like an ace pitcher is always something for which teams overpay. I also recognize that merchandising, tourism, and television revenue will increase in this one bold move. I applaud the Red Sox. This was a stroke of supreme competitive brilliance. It is also very hard to believe that the new revenue streams, and the number of additional wins that it produces for the club, are worth a potential 4-year outlay of $120 million. That’s $30 million a year for the player. Is there $8 or 10 million per year that will arrive in Boston as a result of Matsuzaka joining the club? I don’t think that’s realistic. There’s no problem if you understand that you will lose a lot of money on this deal in order to win. Yankee fans have come to terms with this, and take more than their fair share of heat from mid-market fans as a result. That’s part of the game.

Okay. Enough with the skepticism. It’s more important to talk about what it does for the club on the field. We can worry about dollars and cents all we want, but what fans want is a title. How does Matsuzaka help the Red Sox win a title? That’s easier to answer.

The Red Sox have added some much needed firepower to the rotation. By all accounts, Matsuzaka will be at least a #3 pitcher. Very few nay-sayers are still floating around with Irabu on their tongues. They’ll come around. Believe me. At this price, it is a bit disappointing for the club if Daisuke is a #3 starter, but should that be the case the Red Sox are perhaps one of the few teams that can absorb that kind of over-spending and remain a contender without blinking. I don’t see this as the case, however. I think the Sox have just added a legitimate #1 starter that will get better in his 2nd and 3rd years, to the tune of Cy Young contention. That’s what they are paying for, and I’m very confident that’s what they will get, whatever the prevailing opinions are from around the web.

With Schilling’s age, weight, and durability in question the Sox needed a stud. With Beckett’s difficult transition to the American League, the Sox needed a guy with steel will and a tough mound presence. With Jon Lester’s illness and Papelbon’s inexperience as a Major League starter, Boston needed a guy with experience and stamina. They got all of those things, and then some. There are still questions to be answered in the Red Sox rotation to be sure, but I believe that Matsuzaka is not one of them. Plug him in and watch him dominate.

The AL Central has become one of the most competitive divisions in all of professional sports with the White Sox, Twins, and Tigers all beating each other up day in and day out. The AL wild card is likely to come from that division quite frequently if the current rosters are maintained and strengthened. Each has a good rotation, strong bullpens, and some pop in the lineup. The AL East will likely boil down to the greatest rivalry in sports, Yankees and Red Sox. It also means that, like this season, the 2nd place club may be at home playing golf while the other is fighting it out for the World Series. With those stakes at hand, the Red Sox have made the most significant move in advancing to the division crown. While Brian Cashman builds for the future, the Red Sox are pressing the agenda and aggressively seeking leverage to force Derek Jeter to spend more time in October selling women’s perfume. I applaud this gamesmanship. Boston is run by some very intelligent people, and there’s reason to rejoice in Beantown.

I’ll be following this piece with a closer look at Matsuzaka on the field, in a Boston uniform. What numbers can we expect? How many wins is he worth? What is the reaction in Japan. Will he in fact saty a Red Sock, or will he be traded? Stay tuned.


At 12:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sick of hearing of these rumors,
it has not even been made official yet,
why don't we just wait until tomorrow,
then we will find out what's going on...

At 11:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think most Red Sox fans right now are willing to politely applaud the move, based on a couple of ideas.

First of all, having seen what a sensational effect Ichiro and Matsui have had on their respective markets, and considering the Godzilla like, enormous marketing potential, it is a A+ move.

Secondly, he is obviously a fantastic addition to what could be the AL's finest rotation in 2006, light years ahead of, for example, the Yankees train-crash-mess of a rotation.

Assuming he is signed (and the Sox actually have a perfectly good working relationship with uber-agent Boras) the Sox might start the year with Schilling, Beckett, Matsuzaka, Papelbon and Wakefield. That is a pretty top of the line rotation, teams would absolutely kill for a 4/5 punch of Papelbon and the venerable, sturdy Wakefield.

Obviously the big three, if Schilling holds up and if Beckett irons out a few issues, is absolutely electric.

Here's the thing. The Sox did consider bringing in a guy almost twice Mat-bazookas age last year, Clemens, for probably the same money they can get the Japenese ace for.

This could be the move that tips the balance in the AL East for the next five years.

At 3:32 AM, Blogger Chris said...

Question for you -- wouldn't it be most illustrative to see how Matsuzaka has fared against major league quality hitting? My sense is that the Japan League has top quality players but not enough of them, compared to MLB. So how did he do against his league's toughest hitters? How did he do in international play?

At 10:37 AM, Blogger Bob K said...

As I type, word is coming through that the bid was around $50 million. Here's why it's not quite as insane as it seems: It's Luchino's money, not Epstein's. Assuming he signs a reasonable contract like the 3/36 that's been discussed, then the $50 mil for the rights will mostly come back in merchandising and marketing and NESN rights.... it needn't count against the baseball budget at all. And of course, it also doesn't count against the salary cap.

And here's the ironic twist... for once, it was worth it for the Red Sox to spend the money, but it wouldn't have been worth it for the Yankees. They've already pretty much saturated Japan due to Matsui, and they wouldn't get as much growth from merchandising etc as the Red Sox stand to.

Hopefully, he'll pitch well.

At 11:07 AM, Blogger matcohen said...

I am stunned.

$30-$32 million per year ($51 over 3 plus $13.ys salary) for a pitcher that has never pitched an inning in the majors - more than any pitcher in histry by a huge margin.

Wow - I hav enever been so off on the value of anything in my life.


At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"With Schilling’s age, weight, and durability in question the Sox needed a stud. With Beckett’s difficult transition to the American League, the Sox needed a guy with steel will and a tough mound presence. With Jon Lester’s illness and Papelbon’s inexperience as a Major League starter, Boston needed a guy with experience and stamina. They got all of those things, and then some. There are still questions to be answered in the Red Sox rotation to be sure, but I believe that Matsuzaka is not one of them. Plug him in and watch him dominate."

That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard..

Schilling: His age and weight have been a problem for years, and each year he comes back with a good season.

Becket: His transition was from the NL to the AL. What makes you think Matsuzaka will make a smooth transition from an even more inferior league?

Papelbon: He did fine as a starter for a short period in 2005, and was already a starter for years. He has just as much stamina as Matsuzaka.

At 3:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been watching this seemingly shenanigan filled bidding process for the last week or so. While the conspiracy theory seems to consistantly be that the winning bidder may have an under the table deal with Seibu to not pay the full posting fee, that scenario is of course illegal according to the MLB rules regarding the posting process.

Has anyone considered that instead of that scenario, the Red Sox have skirted the "legal" rules (while guaranteeing the Lions a huge $ figure) by having a three way agreement with Matsuzaka/Boras and the Seibu Lions. Lets say hypothetically, prior to posting they guarantee the Lions 30 milllion dollars regardless of other bids (a figure at the high end pre-posting process), complete a lower end deal with Boras on the taxable MLB contract for Matsuzaka (cutting the real dollar value the Sox will be spending), while the Seibu Lions give Matsuzaka/Boras a 10-20 million dollar check so as to make the money work for them. Thereby making all three sides happy, while limiting risk to all parties.

I've been searching for the reasoning behind this deal and I think this theory may have actually shed some new light on this. Looking at the posting guidelines, the red sox would not have technically broken rules if they negotiated this deal. Thoughts, beyond the fact that I may be skewed towards the conspiratoral side?

(Unless you want to talk about the Red Sox guaranteeing a contract for J.D. Drew (Boras client) before he opted out of his dodger contract. That I will discuss)



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