Matsuzaka Madness

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?

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5 comments

  1. jhein001@umaryland.edu

    I predict that Japsuzaka will start off hot, but then toward mid-August through September will cool off both due to hitters becoming more familiar with him and his arm becoming fatigued.

    Prediction: Matsuzaka goes 15-6; 3.15 e.r.a.; 193 K’s; 201 IP.

    Will be good numbers no doubt, but not worth the money they gave him.

    What worries me the most is, not that the Sox have bid so much on him, the next Japanese phenom will want comparable money. It will just keep going up and up and up….

  2. josephrotskoff@hotmail.com

    I was thinking about this today, actually, and there actually is another perspective to consider. Think about how the Seattle Mariners have profited off of the acquisition of Ichiro Suzuki. Granted, they have zero World Series wins to show for this since his 2001 arrival, but think of the marketing dollars and apparel revenues (among other fringe benefits) they have received in Japan. All Mariners games are televised, and I’m sure the Ichiro “51” jersey is the most popular MLB licensed item in the entire country.

    I believe the Red Sox are banking on this same type of impact, but the difference between them and the Mariners: the Red Sox have Theo Epstein, and the Mariners have Bill Bavasi. Now, I am not in the “Theo Epstein is a genius” camp, but I am in the “Bill Bavasi is lucky to have a job” camp after the absolutely terrible signing of Richie Sexson, and the even worse signing of Adrian Beltre, who made TWICE as much money as David Ortiz last year, and received this long-term contract after ONE, yes ONE good year.

    But, the point cannot be lost: Without the extra revenue Ichiro brought the Mariners, they would not have the money to have spent $50 Million on FIVE players (Beltre, Sexson, Ichiro, Johjima, and Washburn). If you take out Beltre and Sexson, you would have had the money to go after Aramis Ramirez and, the money and prospects to go after Gary Sheffield.

  3. jhein001@umaryland.edu

    I see your point, and it is a good one. The difference I see b/t the two teams, however, is that the two years prior to Suzuki arriving, the Mariners drew on average 35,975 per game.

    That is 76% at SafeCo field. The year Suzuki came, they average 43,300, which is 91.9%. So, you are absolutely right, the Ichiro craze brough t a ton of revenue in for the Mariners over the last 5 years.

    My point is,the Red Sox, last year, led the league in attendance. They finished at 100% capacity according to ESPN’s attendance sheets. EVen if they are 1-2% points off, the point is there aren’t many new seats to gain by bringing in Mitsubishi to pitch. The other day the Red Sox just jacked up their premium seat prices, but I can’t see that covering too much of the expense.

    My question is, where does the extra revenue come in for the Sox, whom were already raking it in at the games? I really don’t know. Maybe it is Japanese advertisements they can place on the backstop on those digital screens, etc. I just can’t see them generating much revenue off of him to rationalize paying that much for him. I can’t see the Red Sox fans going out and buying Matsuzaka jerseys in bulk. If anything, i think they might resent him for the amount of money they spent on him, which was never the case in Seattle.

    Final thought on this, the Seattle fan base and the Red Sox nation are obsiously drastically different. If Matsu stinks it up at first, or is just mediocre (15-12), then he will be considered a bust, and they might actually lose money on him. I just think it is an incredible risk to take on a guy who hasn’t pitched one MLB game.

    Let’s say they sign him for 3 years for $33 million. That is $62 million this year alone they spent on him. $62 million!!! You could get Soriano ($18) (which they need a 2B), Zito ($15), Schmidt ($13), and Carlos Lee ($15) for that price.

    All this being said, I wish the Cardinals would take a chance like this every once in a while, just not this extreme.

  4. josephrotskoff@hotmail.com

    Well, in my estimation, the revenues would be gained internationally, not domestically. In addition to striking some sort of Japanese TV deal to televise all of the games, you have to take into account Red Sox officially licensed items that would be sold in Japan, with a good percentage of those dollars going right back to Boston.

    I wasn’t really thinking of added revenues in terms of increased attendence, but that would have been a good point — if they didn’t already sell out every game, as you mentioned.

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