The posturing drama finally ended on Wednesday, when top Sox officials flew Matsuzaka back to Boston after a visit to the Orange County offices of agent Scott Boras, with only a physical exam between them and a six-year deal worth a reported $52 million plus incentives that could push the value to $60 million.
Theo Epstein and Co. haven’t done much right since their World Series title two Octobers ago, but an impending sign on the dotted line by the best pitcher not in the major leagues should reverse that trend. This is a risk worth taking; plausible in its own unique set of circumstances.
First, every assessment of the market for free-agent starting pitchers put the 26-year-old right-hander in the elite echelon with Barry Zito and Jason Schmidt in terms of talent. Zito isn’t a good fit at Fenway Park, and Schmidt is eight years older than Matsuzaka and much more of a health risk. Throw in other contracts being handed out — $55 million over five years for Gil Meche, $47 million over three years for Schmidt, $40 million over four years for Ted Lilly — and the Matsuzaka bid/contract has become a bit more reasonable.
What the Sox gave up in the posting process, where their $51.1-million bid was the winner, they could make up on the rest of the deal. Considering the second-highest bid was reportedly $30 million or so, they coughed up an extra $20 million to win the exclusive negotiation rights. But in light of the six-year deal, that’s akin to adding only $3.5 million per year onto the tab.
Another consideration is the posting fee doesn’t count against their payroll for luxury tax purposes. Meanwhile, the Yankees’ deal for Andy Pettitte really will cost them about $23 million in 2007 considering the tax they are paying as habitually over-the-threshold offenders. In fact, they could pay $46 million over two years if Pettitte’s option is exercised for 2008.
Not that Matsuzaka should get No. 1 starter money at this point. While he was the MVP of the World Baseball Classic and is 108-60-2.95 in his career in Japan, he still hasn’t thrown a big-league pitch, or faced big-league lineups such as the Yankees’ in pressure situations and proven himself.
The six-year agreement also gives the Red Sox the benefit of controlling Matsuzaka for as long as it takes any other player to reach free agency. The thought was Boras would try for a shorter deal so Matsuzaka could enter the free-agent market again at age 29 or 30.
But in reality, playing the waiting game was the only card Boras held. His client wanted to realize his dream and play in the United States in 2007 — not wait until he could become a true free agent after the 2008 season — or to challenge the posting rule. And since Matsuzaka made about $3 million in Japan last season, he is almost tripling his salary while fulfilling his dream, so it’s hard to argue he got short-changed in any way.
TORONTO (AP) - Maicer Izturis hit a two-run single in the eighth inning and the Toronto Blue Jays won their sixth consecutive game Monday night, beating the Colorado Rockies 2-0 behind Josh Johnson and two relievers.
Taking a look at some of the greatest catchers off all time.