If the rumors are true, and the Red Sox or some other team bid close to $40M for the right to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka, then I’m very happy the Mets lost the auction. The only logic I see in such a high bid is to keep D-Mat away from other teams, not sign him, and get the posting fee returned in 30 days.
Sure, there is supposed to be an element of “good faith” attached to this process, but forty million seems overly excessive. And it is not outside the realm of believability for a team to get stonewalled by Scott Boras and not come to an agreement on terms. Boras has a big chip to play in his pocket — D-Mat can play one more year and become an unrestricted free-agent, available on the open market. That said, Boras and D-Mat can confidently walk away from the negotiating table if they don’t get the price they want. And if a team offers, say, $10M per for 3 years, isn’t that a pretty fair offer? And would you be surprised if Boras held out for $15M per?
Which brings up another interesting twist. What if the Seibu Lions promise Boras a cut of the posting fee to insure that D-Mat signs a contract? Naturally, this would be a shady, under-the-table deal, but with the amount of dollars potentially changing hands, it would behoove the Lions to spend a few million to guarantee they get the posting fee. After all, if D-Mat doesn’t sign, then Seibu gets zilch.
Enough of the D-Mat chaos … the better news is, there’s another Japanese pitcher available, also through the posting process, who won’t be nearly as costly as Matsuzaka, yet just might outperform him — Kei Igawa.
Igawa’s stock has dropped considerably since a so-so performance against the US team last week. However, his numbers over the last few years in Japan have been more than respectable, his skills are MLB-caliber, and he’s a 27-year-old lefthander. His “poor” game against the USA is overblown. Consider this: how would you expect ANY pitcher to do against a team of MLB All-Stars? Do you honestly believe that Roger Clemens or Roy Oswalt would dominate a lineup that bats David Wright seventh and Chase Utley eighth? In addition, Igawa had not pitched in several weeks, after pitching 200 innings in the regular season, so he very well may have been a little rusty and not at his best. Even under these conditions, he managed to pitch seven strong innings, giving up only two runs against the strong US team. The one weak point was that he walked six. But if you look at the US lineup, it’s easy to understand why he might have been pitching around a few guys.
Regardless of what Scott Boras is spewing, Daisuke Matsuzaka is no guarantee to be an ace; in fact he projects more realistically as a #3. Igawa is nearly as talented, and therefore could also project as a #3 or #4. The only real difference between the two — besides the hype — is the posting price. The bid to win Igawa should be significantly smaller than D-Mat’s, and therefore a better gamble. Not to be ignored is the fact that D-Mat auction price will establish the market value for Japanese pitchers, so it should be easier to gauge a top bid for Igawa.
Further, with all the attention and hype on D-Mat, it should be much easier for Igawa to make the adjustment to the USA and MLB — for all of 2007 he’ll be in D-Mat’s shadow, the “other” Japanese import. With D-Mat absorbing the media pressure, and Igawa coming in with lower expectations, success seems much more likely.
By the end of the weekend, we’ll know who won the Matsuzaka sweepstakes. Yet there will be a much quieter, more cost-effective auction immediately after — for Kei Igawa.