The Red Sox $51 million bid for Japanese Ace Daisuke Matsuzaka is the most controversial free agent move since A-Rod became the $252 million man for the Texas Rangers after the 2000 season. The Red Sox winning bid does not include the cost of signing Matsuzaka to an actual contract. Most around baseball expect Matsuzaka to sign a contract in the neighborhood of $48 million for four years, bringing the grand total to just under $100 million for four years. By now, you know all the facts, the 26-year old Matsuzaka throws a commanding mid-nineties fastball with three quality off-speed pitches and if you believe the hype, a “gyroball,” a mythical pitch designed by Japanese scientists. For his part, Matsuzaka denies the gyroball reports but considering the hype, he may need to get working on it.
The Sox motivation for this move has already been debated ad-nauseum. Some even believe the Sox put in the high bid just to keep him away from the Yankees and that they won’t even sign him within the 30-day negotiating window. Such insanity should be ignored, even with Scott Boras negotiating the contract it will get done. What we’re left with is the idea that the Sox actually made the move for baseball reasons, a difficult pill to swallow for Red Sox and Yankee drama loving columnists.
From a baseball perspective let’s take a look at the numbers. Over the last four seasons, Matsuzaka has averaged 15 wins, 182 innings pitched, 192 K’s and 47 BB’s with a 2.55 ERA. Translating those stats to Major League Baseball is obviously guess work at best. But for the sake of argument, let’s say he puts up comparable numbers, 17 wins, 200 IP, 180 K’s and 60 BB’s with an ERA of 2.80, a legitimate ace by today’s standards. Is that really worth $25 million a season? To put that in perspective, 27 year-old Johan Santana will make $25 million over the next two seasons and his four year averages including a half season out of the bullpen are 17 wins, 213 IP, 230 K’s and 48 BB’s with a 2.83 ERA. Of course, that’s assuming Matsuzaka will stay healthy and immediately adjust to Major League hitters and ballparks, let alone the insufferable pressure of a Boston fan-base that is expecting the second coming of Roger Clemens in his prime.
Does this move leapfrog Boston past the Blue Jays, White Sox, Athletics, Tigers, Twins and Yankees-all teams that finished last season with a better record than the Red Sox? Seems pretty unlikely especially when you consider that Matsuzaka isn’t an everyday player. In fact, he’s used to working as part of a six man rotation, something else that seems to have been lost translation for the Red Sox brass.
Here’s looking forward to the $50 million matchup between A-Rod and Matsuzaka. Gyroball anyone?