Archive: October 25th, 2006

Daisuke Matsuzaka — Worth the Dough?

It is true the Mets need pitching … but then, who outside of Houston doesn’t? But is their situation so desperate that they need to bid on the right to negotiate with Japanese phenom Daisuke Matsuzaka ?

After witnessing the ups and downs of Japanese imports such as Hideo Nomo and Hideki Irabu, I’d be a little hesitant to go over the top with a bid. Now, add these two factors — 1. Matsuzaka has hired Scott Boras as his agent, and 2. word on the street is that the winning bid could be close to $20 million.

Think about that — 20 million dollars just to have the right to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka, then, on top, your negotiation will be with Scott Boras. And all this expense and aggravation for a guy who, at 26 years old, has already logged eight professional years yet never won more than 17 games — in Japan.

Seems like a hefty price to pay for a guy who has not quite dominated Japanese hitters. Some consider the Japanese league to be on AAA level, or maybe somewhat higher. As far as pitchers go, you might say that Japan is a notch below the National League. That said, you’d have to assume that any pitcher making the transition to MLB will lose a good chunk of effectiveness. So a guy like Matsuzaka, whose numbers and age compare to, say, Brandon Webb, will pitch more like Aaron Harang once he gets to the USA.

Think that’s not fair? Let’s not forget that Kaz Matsui was one of the top hitters in Japan, and hit .336 with 36 home runs one year. Let’s also consider that one of the top hitters that Matsuzaka has faced in the last two years is Benny Agbayani.

Now, Aaron Harang is a good young talent, but would anyone pay $20M just to negotiate with him? Probably not. But, let’s give Daisuke Matsuzaka the benefit of the doubt, and let’s say he’ll do as well as Webb, or Dontrelle Willis. Would you pay twenty million dollars for the right to negotiate with Scott Boras for Dontrelle Willis’ services? Even for Willis, or Webb, or any other proven mid-20s flamethrower, that seems to be a steep price to pay — especially when you consider the fragility of arms.

Which brings up another consideration — why are the Seibu Lions so willing to give up a successful, talented, 26-year-old pitcher? Remember, this is the same Seibu club that was willing to let Kaz Matsui escape to the USA — and they seemed to know something we didn’t on that decision. Is it because they are desperate for cash, or do they figure Matsuzaka has peaked? Have they overtaxed his arm in his young years, and know he’s on the verge of a physical breakdown? Are they aware of a slight tear or tweak that could lead to bigger problems in the near future?

There’s a good possibility that there is nothing at all wrong with Daisuke Matsuzaka. In fact, assuming he’s healthy, there’s every reason to believe that he will turn out to be a solid Major League pitcher — maybe a #2 or #3 starter on a National League team. But is that worth $20M for negotiation rights, and another $20-$40 in a long-term contract? I’m going to say no, at least, not for the Mets — not with youngsters such as Mike Pelfrey, Philip Humber, John Maine, Oliver Perez, and Brian Bannister ready to make an impact. Their American League brethren in the Bronx, however, is another story. We’ll see if the Yankees’ short-term memory includes Hideki Irabu, or if they’ll dish out the dough for Daisuke Matsuzaka.