Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Baseball Blog - Warm Stove Edition: Seems the New York Yankees aren't the only team with lots of money to throw around. ESPN is reporting that the Boston Red Sox are the completely insanely profligate winners of the Daisuke Matsuzaka negotiations bidding sweepstakes. If a negotiations bidding sweepstakes sounds ridiculous, so was the Red Sox bid. They bid $42 million (The New York Times reports the bid was $45 million) for the right to negotiate with the right-handed Japanese pitcher. That's twice what the Yankees reportedly bid. Presumably, the Seibu Lions will accept the bid, and allow the Red Sox a month to ink a deal with Matsuzaka. Otherwise, his rights revert back to the Lions. The official announcement will be made Tuesday.

This is the same process that led to the Mariners signing Ichiro Suzuki. Rumors have it that the Mariners have never paid the full bidding price in the Ichiro sweepstakes -- that there was a prior agreement with the Japanese team that owned Ichiro's rights to allow the Mariners to pull a fast one. MLB has said it will scrutinize this transaction to make sure it's on the up-and-up. There is speculation that the Red Sox made the bid to keep Matuzaka out of the Yankees hands -- that they do not expect to actually sign him. MLB has also said there would be consequences if such a tactic was employed. They're expecting the Red Sox to negotiate in good faith.

According to ESPN's Peter Gammons, the bid does make sense for the Sox. Gammons says scouts that have seen Matsuzaka pitch believe "he's a top of the rotation-quality pitcher who would improve the Red Sox staff." Futhermore, if Boston GM Theo Epstein can sign Matsuzaka, "it would effectively plant a Red Sox flag in the growing Far East market." To be sure, signing Matsuzaka would give the Red Sox a real foot in the door of Asian baseball, giving the team a significantly enhanced profile there. The Red Sox want a slice of the "marketing revenues from the Japanese market." Matsuzaka would give them that.

True, the Red Sox have blocked the Yankees from getting their "evil empire" mitts on Matsuzaka, by ensuring they won the blind auction with an outrageously high bid. But Gammons thinks the Red Sox have more serious revenge on their minds. By signing Matsuzaka, "they would gain the same kind of advantage the Yankees gained when they signed Johnny Damon away from Boston. " http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2660428

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