Matsuzaka: what the hell?

DMZ · November 6, 2006 at 5:15 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

If you’ve been around here for very long, you know that we’ve been rabid for the team to go after Matsuzaka. We were happy knowing they were ready to do it. I’d sum up the USSM consensus as: his arm’s either going to explode or he’ll do great. I don’t think any of us buy the “his arm is made of adamantium so there’s no way his ligament snaps” – that argument’s been used for many, many pitchers who later went under the knife.

But they’re not going to even bid for him. Why? Let’s hit the big ones.

Too expensive
The posting fee on top of what Matsuzaka is looking to sign for is going to be a ridiculous total package, even for an ace. Say he gets an AJ Burnett contract, plus the team has to pay $30m for the right to give him that contract. Even in a ace-scarce environment, that’s terrifying.

The M’s might look at Schmidt and see a known quantity they can count on who, even on a 4/$45m deal would be much cheaper than Matsuzaka will be.

No accounting hijinks
While the posting money doesn’t count against the salary cap (making this particularly attractive to the Yankees), it looks like the M’s didn’t get a special dispensation from Nintendo to make a bid and still spend $whatever on payroll and player development. Whatever the M’s have said in the past about accounting differently for foreign players acquired as undrafted free agents, it appears that today it’s just another line item, and they decided that they could get more from the money than they would from putting it in a Matsuzaka bid+contract.

Matsuzaka doesn’t want to play with Ichiro
… and he told Boras who told teams, so the M’s said “okay, we won’t bid, then.” I don’t even know how we would start trying to prove or disprove this one.

Waiting it out
Accusations are already flying that teams are trying to tamper with the process, considering posting an immense bid and then telling Boras to stick it. Before the hijinks started, I would have thought that the chance Matsuzaka went on the market as a free agent next year were slim. Now, it’s a real possibility. Maybe, especially given the other factors, they’d rather sit this one out.

He’s repped by Boras
Boras is not a factor. It’s not. Bavasi and Boras are friends, and they’ve come to easy agreements with Boras clients before. The team isn’t afraid or even reluctant to pursue his clients.

The Mariners hate us and want us to be miserable
Between this and Hargrove’s retention, I have to admit that this is pretty persuasive.

(I’ll add more if there’s any suggestions for additional things)

I really don’t know that going after Matsuzaka, especially through the posting process, is financially responsible. It’s going to be a ridiculous amount of money. But in trying to fill holes through free agency, GMs are trying to make the least bad decisions possible. Matsuzaka + random minor league free agents to fill out the rotation is almost certainly going to be a much better decision than Jason Schmidt+Adam Eaton, for instance, even if it’s a pretty wild bet.

The big question that remains, though is that if it’s financial, why not submit what they consider a reasonable bid, even knowing it’ll lose? Even if you think Matsuzaka is going to demand $100m, you can bid $12m, offer him 5y/$35m, and let him go if by some miracle your bid wins. Unless you think he’s not even worth a shot in the dark, and he clearly is, why not buy that free lottery ticket?

I don’t have an answer to that. I don’t understand why you’d want to look apathetic about the best pitcher on the market this off-season, especially given the team’s poor showing these last few years.


45 Responses to “Matsuzaka: what the hell?”

  1. Dave on November 6th, 2006 5:19 pm

    The biggest thing I’ve learned in the past few years is when something like this happens, where there’s no obvious rational explanation for the decision they made that we can prove, we should assume they have one that we don’t know about.

    I’d say there’s a 100% chance that the M’s made this decision based on some piece of information the public doesn’t have.

  2. Bender on November 6th, 2006 5:29 pm

    Honestly I’m ok with this. As long as we retain Ichiro and win next year, I’ll trust them on this.

    I do hope someone fucks with Boras though. That would be delicious.

  3. bat guano on November 6th, 2006 5:29 pm

    I like Derek’s theory that they did it out of spite for USSM, not to mention all of their knowledgeable fans, ala retaining Hargrove. Why not simply announce that they’re concentrating on attracting fans/morons to the park who don’t have a clue about the game and don’t care if the team wins? It’s all about the Moose……..

  4. The Ancient Mariner on November 6th, 2006 5:37 pm

    Yeah, I’m with Dave — there has to be something beyond our ken. Heck, I can think of a couple things off the top of my head that would explain their behavior . . .

  5. Eleven11 on November 6th, 2006 5:39 pm

    Unless they know something about his arm pain we don’t…

  6. bat guano on November 6th, 2006 5:41 pm

    Dave, do you think the info the public doesn’t have concerns Igawa? Might the M’s have targeted him as a better way to spend their money than bidding against the New York teams for Matsuzaka? Do you (or anyone reading this) have any info handy that would provide a basis for comparing them?

  7. Mat on November 6th, 2006 5:47 pm

    I’d say there’s a 100% chance that the M’s made this decision based on some piece of information the public doesn’t have.

    I dunno, this sort of fits their MO when it comes to signing free agents. The M’s have a price in mind for what Matsuzaka is worth, and they don’t think they’ll be able to sign him for that price. So, they’re not going to pretend to be involved in the process, the same way that they didn’t pretend to be involved with signing A.J. Burnett last offseason.

    I don’t like that process, but if that’s the way that they “negotiate” with free agents, it stands to reason that they might be passing on Matsuzaka simply because they don’t value him that highly.

  8. Evan on November 6th, 2006 5:50 pm

    Let’s say you make a reasonable bid and by some random fluke you win. And then in salary negotiations Matsuzaka’s especially recalcitrants and won’t accept your 5/35 offer.

    Why not then offer him a 1 year deal? He’d earn more than he would in Japan, become a free agent at the end of the year (if you put that in the contract), and get to showcase his talents on this side of the pond.

  9. Dave on November 6th, 2006 5:52 pm

    Why not then offer him a 1 year deal? He’d earn more than he would in Japan, become a free agent at the end of the year (if you put that in the contract), and get to showcase his talents on this side of the pond.

    There’s no scenario where the winning bid is less than $15 million. The posting fee for Kaz Ishii was $11 million four years ago. So if you’re paying $15 million for rights to talk to the guy, a one year deal makes no sense at all for the club.

  10. Andy Stallings on November 6th, 2006 6:33 pm

    I’m impressed that, title aside, nobody around here has lost their shit about the Matsuzaka situation. Dave’s line of reasoning is one of the soundest things I’ve ever heard from a fan of any stripe, but a willing critic in particular. Not that the Mariners are undeserving of criticism, but as a fan, it’s good to be reminded that, notwithstanding all the information we do have access to and once didn’t, there are still some things we don’t know.

    To me, the truly shocking development of this offseason is that Hargrove is still managing this team. My daydream of a Felix/Matsuzaka 1-2 punch go as easy as they came. Something so much more palatable about losing something you expected but never had than being forced to keep what is known but hated.

    Glad you guys are back up.

  11. Wishhiker on November 6th, 2006 6:40 pm

    I’ve heard recent talk, from a few who watched him pitch live this season, that up close he’s not as good as everyone’s saying. I think it’s possible that they didn’t see him on a good night. It’s hard to beleive that he’d be able to dominate the WBC without superior stuff. It is also possible that something happenned between the WBC and when they saw him pitch. I doubt it.

    I still hold out hope (though very slim) that either he will be a bust or this is just a ploy by the M’s to get others to feel more secure in offering a lower amount. With next years free agent class I can handle waiting for adding a quality starting Pitcher. With pitchers like Carlos Zambrano, Chris Carpenter and many others that will be sought after, as well as at least 4 quality bats with LH power I’d rather see the M’s spend money next year.

  12. msb on November 6th, 2006 6:43 pm

    FWIW, Lou Melendez was on KJR a week or so back, and when asked the “what’s to stop a team like say the Jays from making a ridiculous bid, and then ‘failing’ to make a deal, which keeps him from the Yankees?” question, he claimed that the Commissioner’s office has the ability to take actions against a team that isn’t abiding by the spirit of the original US/Japan agreement…

  13. Mike Hargrove's Cameltoe on November 6th, 2006 7:54 pm

    Question: my understanding of the posting process is that if the Commissioner feels the winning bid was made in bad faith, he can let the player negotiate with the second place team.

    Suppose that team made a bad faith bid as well?

    All you need is two teams collaborating to shut out the Yankees. Unless Matsuzaka and the team get together and split the outrageous offer, what could go wrong?

  14. Lance on November 6th, 2006 8:09 pm

    Interesting that they publicly say it was Ymauchi’s decision, although the FO concurs. So, who influenced who?

    Still, I’d be surprised if the Mariners DIDN’T have a Japanese pitcher battle for a spot in the rotation next spring.

    Also, I’d say it’s a stretch to say Bavasi and Boras are friends. I’d say they are capable of working together, maybe mutual respect. But, that’s as far as I’d take it.

  15. MickeyZ on November 6th, 2006 8:27 pm

    I’m disappointed only because I was hoping for the M’s to leverage their Japanese ownership into blowing a big wad of cash for my viewing benefit. His arm is going to fall off before too much longer, and the grapes are sour anyway.

    Mostly I just don’t have any confidence in Bavasi to do something creative to give us a shot at a starting rotation that doesn’t make you want to wear a blindfold 3 days out of 5. Is it going to be Felix and Washburn and 3 rule fivers?

  16. Adam S on November 6th, 2006 10:26 pm

    I’m disappointed that they aren’t even trying here, but what if their information is that between the posting fee and the contract he’s going to want, he simply isn’t worth it.

    Say they know from Boras that he wants 3/$35M. And they figure the posting fee is $25M to get him. At $60M/3 years plus rights to negotiate a deal for three more seasons doesn’t sound like much of a bargain.

  17. SoulofaCitizen on November 6th, 2006 10:44 pm

    But even if they decide not to bid on him, I see no value in announcing it. If the other teams, say the Yankees, think the Mariners are going full tilt, they’re going to bid more and have less (relatively speaking) for other free agents. Why tip your hand.

    Still seems to me that at the least they could have tried a modest bid, and then seen what happens.

    This way they just make it cheaper for other teams.

    And although there may well be things we don’t know, it sure does seem like our options are lousy.

  18. BelaXadux on November 7th, 2006 12:54 am

    What Mat said in #7.

    To me, the team ran the numbers, didn’t like them, their revenue stream is down on top of that, and they already have their hearts set on another pitcher as top priority. To have a reasonable chance at top bid, a team should be thinking in the range of $20M; certainly, Loud George has the wallet to drop at that price, and the ego—and that’s a mighty stiff price, yes, if it comes to that, which probably it will. $15M is the floor, but the winner is likely to hit the ceiling here. The Ms FO didn’t see themselves in it, and only went to Mr. Yamauchi to make sure they showed him respect on a player (non)acquisition that would reflect on him back home. But the Ms don’t see themselves in the deal for Matsuzaka, and they don’t waste time/effort bluffing.

    Figured another way, signing Daisuke would be like buying another ~$12-15M a year player on a long-term multi-year. The Ms already have three guys in that range, and practically speaking they shouldn’t, and in this case won’t, acquire a fourth. . . . Of course two of those three should be moved, but there’s no way in Hell Bavasi is dealing any of them. So: No MatsDai. Simple as that.

  19. mln on November 7th, 2006 3:08 am

    The Mariners hate us and want us to be miserable
    Between this and Hargrove’s retention, I have to admit that this is pretty persuasive

    Bavasi most likely has been checking USS Mariner on a daily basis and thinking to himself, “Whatever USS Mariner wants me to do, I will do the very OPPOSITE. First keeping Hargrove, then not bidding on Matsuzaka, next I will sign Alfonso Soriano and Jason Schmidt to long albatross contracts. (rubs hands together) That will show them.”

  20. terry on November 7th, 2006 3:37 am

    Well, there is atleast one other potential reason….given they kept hargrove, maybe they are just dumb…. 😛

    Seriously, this isnt such a big mystery….IMHO its a combination of things-the investment/risk and they KNOW something…..

  21. seagood3 on November 7th, 2006 5:53 am

    This is my first time posting but I am a longtime viewer of this blog which I think is very well done.

    I have one comment that I have not read or heard about the posting. Is it possible that the M’s front office is misleading the public/other MLB teams about their intentions? It would make sense to me. Why not lead the Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, etc, that there is one less team bidding. And a serious threat at that. It cause some lower bids. Anyways just a thought and was wondering if anyone else had thought about that.

  22. Dave on November 7th, 2006 6:41 am

    It’s not a bluff. The M’s aren’t bidding.

  23. Choska on November 7th, 2006 8:04 am

    IMHO, the owners and money men of this team have taken a look at how Bavasi has spent their money in the past, and made the quite reasonable decision that giving him big money to spend on free agents is akin to flushing it down the toilet.

    This actually would not be such a bad idea if the result was that the Ms stopped spending HUGE money on ridiculous contracts and concentrate their resources on player development/scouting/smart drafting. This might enable us to stop looking like the West Coast version of the Orioles and start looking like the As.

    Unfortunately, I think the result is that we’ll end up with a team of experienced, slightly below average, journeymen. Instead of looking like the Orioles, we’ll look like the Royals. (But at least the amount of money spent per win will go down.)

  24. msb on November 7th, 2006 8:55 am

    IMHO, the owners and money men of this team have taken a look at how Bavasi has spent their money in the past, and made the quite reasonable decision that giving him big money to spend on free agents is akin to flushing it down the toilet.

    if they felt that way, wouldn’t they have just fired him, instead?

  25. leetinsleyfanclub on November 7th, 2006 9:16 am

    I am not bothered too much by the decision not to pursue Matsuzaka. It’s the thought of the alternatives that bothers me. Either the M’s go after the obvious (Schmidt, Zito, Eaton – all of whom scare the hell out of me)or they attempt to get “creative” through trades, which given their recent track record is a downright horrifying notion.

    I just can’t trust this front office to do the right thing. I want to, but they need to show me.

  26. frenchonion on November 7th, 2006 9:35 am

    Repost, as it’s more topical here, and immediately got buried in a dead thread last time:

    From Baseball Prospectus Week In Quotes, Nov 5—

    “We’ve been candid with teams about where we would want to go, or more importantly where we would not want to go. And you’ve probably seen the response to that.”
    –Scott Boras, agent of Japanese hurler Daisuke Matsuzaka


    “Two things there. The money is ridiculous and Scott Boras represents him.”
    –an AL GM who declined to bid on Matsuzaka

  27. mroptimist on November 7th, 2006 10:16 am

    Listening to KJR while stuck in traffic this morning, someone who covers the Rangers claimed that Mr Yamauchi did not get along with the owner of the Seibu Lions, and there was no way he was going to write the man a $20 Million check. And that’s the real reason that the Ms dropped out of the bidding, not concerns for his health, some thing about his mechanics, just good old-fashioned behind the scenes politics.

    Man if that’s true, and it sounds plausible at least, it sucks, but I can almost understand it. I mean, I wouldn’t want to see us pay any MLB team a wad of cash to take a player off his hands.

  28. SCL on November 7th, 2006 10:31 am

    Dave, is it possible that Seattle gave early announcement of their no-bid because they WANT the signing team to pay a lower posting fee and offer a lower contract?

    Maybe they are thinking that the total Matsuzaka price will affect the price tag of other free agent pitchers who they want to go after.

  29. gwangung on November 7th, 2006 10:37 am

    Maybe they are thinking that the total Matsuzaka price will affect the price tag of other free agent pitchers who they want to go after.

    That’s WAY too subtle for this front office.

    They’re not as bad as some fans make them out to be, but they’re not capable of being that subtle (and few people are).

  30. msb on November 7th, 2006 10:49 am

    #27– does Tsutsumi still own Seibu? I remember he was convicted of insider trading a couple of years ago…

  31. Ralph Malph on November 7th, 2006 11:07 am

    It’s not a bluff. The M’s aren’t bidding.

    Dave, I mean no disrespect by this but when you make a flat statement like this — with no indication of what you’re basing it on — it reminds me of statements like “Hargrove is gone at the end of the season.”

    I can’t imagine it’s a bluff either (though I don’t understand why you’d announce this in advance). I trust you, Dave, but I don’t know that I trust your source(s) anymore.

  32. gwangung on November 7th, 2006 11:16 am

    Dave, I mean no disrespect by this but when you make a flat statement like this — with no indication of what you’re basing it on —

    Let’s put it this way…If Yamauchi’s name is attached to the statement, there’s absolutely NO way that the team’s going to contradict it.

  33. mroptimist on November 7th, 2006 11:20 am

    #30 – I’m confused, but I think so. Seibu Lions have an acting owner Hidekazu Ota, but Tsutsumi is still mentioned by the Seattle Times, and NY Times. Someone with more knowledge/time to google will have to chime in if they know what’s really on there.

  34. msb on November 7th, 2006 1:41 pm

    Japan Economic Newswire, Oct. 26, 2004

    Seibu Lions owner Yoshiaki Tsutsumi formally resigned on Tuesday to take responsibility after Seibu Railway Co. underreported the size of its shares held by Kokudo Corp., the team’s general manger said at a baseball executive committee meeting the same day. Seibu general manager Yoshio Hoshino said a replacement for Tsutsumi has not been chosen yet but Hiroyoshi Yamaguchi will take over as acting owner for the time being.

    [and the Daily Yomiuri recently referred to ‘Seibu acting owner and club president Hidekazu Ota’]

  35. Karen on November 7th, 2006 2:15 pm

    RE: #27 and #30:

    I was doing a little Googling to find out a bit more about Seibu Lions acting owner Hidekazu Ota (as well as Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, whose insider trading prison sentence was apparently “suspended”, while his business holdings are crumbling under him).

    Hidekazu Ota is listed as one of the “United Architects” who’ve contributed to one of the 9 original designs submitted to the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. for the WTC Memorial and new towers.

    Add that New York City connection to the similarities in the Seibu Lions and Yankee owners’ honesty (being convicted, not serving a sentence), put some credence to the rumors about the Yankees and Mets having the #1 and #2 post positions (pardon the pun) in this bidding race.

  36. msb on November 7th, 2006 2:44 pm

    I believe Tsutsumi rec’d the suspended sentence due to his age at the time of conviction…

  37. James T on November 7th, 2006 4:27 pm

    Was Suzuki disliked in NPB? Can anyone answer that question? I ask because of the supposed lack of interest on Matsuzaka’s part in playing on the same team as him. And, I’m a Red Sox fan and I clearly remember the first time, in 2001, that Hideo Nomo pitched against him in MLB. He stuck a fastball right in the middle of Suzuki’s back. It was an absolute 100% clear intent to bean the guy pitch. Seriously, was Suzuki roundly disliked in NPB?

    And, yes, as a Red Sox fan I would love for John Henry to throw enough money into the pot to beat out failed shipping magnate George Steinbrenner just this once.

  38. joser on November 7th, 2006 4:49 pm

    The article I read that suggested Ichiro’s presence on the Mariners was an issue with Matsuzaka coming to Seattle said it was because he didn’t want to be in Ichiro’s shadow. It’s possible he doesn’t like Ichiro and just offered a different reason rather than saying so, but it’s also possible he really does want to be the star, or at least the “Japanese star,” on his team. Though that of course begs the question as to why the Yankees are still in the running; even if Matsui wasn’t already in pinstripes, there are more than enough big heads casting shadows on that team.

  39. DMZ on November 7th, 2006 6:37 pm

    That’s not begging the question.

  40. msb on November 7th, 2006 7:31 pm

    #38– so you have a source telling Jon Heyman, “Seattle was the team Matsuzaka least wanted to go to. That source said he believed Matsuzaka didn’t want to play in Ichiro’s shadow and would like to have his own spotlight.”

    and other sources that say “if he could choose, he’d come to Seattle to play. The reasons are twofold — center fielder Ichiro Suzuki and catcher Kenji Johjima. Matsuzaka, associates say, has long wanted to play with Ichiro, something that both men experienced in the World Baseball Classic last spring. Team Japan won the tournament with Matsuzaka winning the Most Valuable Player award and Ichiro serving as mentor to the younger men on the team. And Matsuzaka and Johjima spent time as teammates at the 2004 Athens Olympics. “

  41. pinball1973 on November 8th, 2006 3:32 am

      Hargrove is the manager and the team will not address the weak points that kept them from overcoming the handicap of having the worst manager ever at the helm, playing with dinosaurs and running out eight-man lineups despite the AL West BEGGING them to step up and do it.

    I wish you all well, and the players better than that, but I’ll simply watch the highlights and ignore the scores and determination of management to seize the cellar and waste yet another year of Ichiro’s career. Sorry to say it, but he won’t sign at any price if the M’s end in last, and may not if they aren’t in the race until late.

    (I’ll willingly admit any errors – excepting the established fact the Hargrove is the most effective mismanager in baseball at perhaps -5 games or better – should they win 100 games after all.)

  42. Livengood on November 8th, 2006 11:11 am

    I had hoped that the reason for the public bowing out was either (a) a bluff, designed to give them a better chance of winning with a bid they feel comfortable with but don’t think has a shot of winning if they are publicly avid in their pursuit, or (b) the M’s believe that Matsuzaka ultimately will not sign, for whatever reason, and think they have a much better shot at him as a FA. Realistically, I know neither scenario is even remotely likely. I’m with whomever said that if Yamauchi’s name is attached to this bow out, it very likely isn’t a bluff. While I don’t think Uncle bud has the power to prevent the astronomical bid / lowball offer strategy, as MSB’s post suggested, I also don’t think that’s very likely a strategy that can work.

    In the end, I think Dave’s right. They know something we don’t, or something more than we do. I’d speculate it is health-related, and while it may not be anything close to career- or even season-threatening, when coupled with the money involved, was enough to push them out. And if it is the Yankees who end up with him, I hope my speculation is right.

  43. msb on November 8th, 2006 1:14 pm

    #42 — Melendez didn’t seem to think they could prevent it, but he implied they could punish the offender. If they chose to.

  44. Tim_G on November 8th, 2006 7:21 pm

    If this was a game of poker, it would be like announcing that the M’s are going to fold before the other players have even placed their bets. So, even if they are not going to bid, why announce it? The Mets and the other teams simply won’t say what they will do, because they do not want to tip their hands.

    Somehow I doubt that they would say that and then bid anyway, as a ploy, but maybe.

  45. frenchonion on November 10th, 2006 10:23 am


    The Boston Red Sox may have posted the top bid for the right to negotiate with Japanese right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney reported, citing Major League Baseball sources.

    “There has been no official announcement, and the Seibu Lions, Matsuzaka’s team in Japan, have until Tuesday to accept or reject the high bid.

    But Olney is reporting that the Red Sox may have posted the top bid with a figure between $38 million and $45 million, according to Major League Baseball officials who are monitoring the bidding.”

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