Sunday, November 05, 2006

Round and Round We Go

Less than a week from now, we'll know the destination of Daisuke Matsuzaka. Fans from all walks are absolutely rabid over the prospect of this young Japanese ace joining their favorite club. There are questions to be sure, and many a GM is asking himself those very questions. Will he translate to the Major Leagues? Will the tremendous number of pitches he's thrown at the young age of 26 affect him negatively in the near future? Can anyone justify an out of pocket expenditure of $20 million a season for one foreign pitcher?

Those debates are raging internally in the Yankees offices, as they would seem to be elsewhere as well. The Mariners, Dodgers, Angels, and Orioles have already answered those questions for themselves by all accounts. The money is best spent on multiple players to plug multiple holes. I can't argue with that line of thinking. The Mets and Yankees look to be major players in the bidding, along with the Rangers and Cubs. The Red Sox have been quiet, but you have the distinct feeling that Theo Epstein is about to make a major move. For those teams that can afford him, what are the stakes?

For the Yankees and Red Sox the stakes are clear. If one of those teams should acquire him, and should he be a true #1, the other will be devastated. If he doesn't measure up, the team that lays off will have money in the coffers to pursue more proven pitching. The Yankees and the Mets share the additional dynamic of the tabloid exposure of New York. If one of those teams wins out over the other, a line will be drawn in the sand. Who wields the most influence in New York, the Yankees or the Mets. The Mets are doing a very good job of redefining the market with Omar Minaya's bold maneuvering.

The Cubs need help. 99 years without a title. More money than anyone else. Restless, if eternally loyal, fans. If they could ever put together a complete team, they's have a very good chance. They need more than one pitcher though. They have some arms, if they can stay healthy. They need some bats desperately. Word is, they may bid the moon for Matsuzaka, but I don't think even the great Daisuke will cure the Cubs woes. The Rangers need a marquee pitcher in the worst way. They haven't had a real #1 since Nolan Ryan, and they don't figure to be in the running for any of the free agents on the market. Matsuzaka sits out there a ripe plum to be picked. If they win his rights, he almost has to pitch for them. Hicks WILL overpay. The stakes are high in Texas.

If you ask me, I believe the stakes are highest for the Yankees with both the Sox and Mets in the running for this player. They've hired Matsuzaka's high school teammate as their Asian scout. They have Jean Afterman on their side to master the Japanese market. She has a very long relationship with the Japanese market and helped to bring Matsui to the Bronx. She's been to Japan 3 times this year to work on this situation. I'm a bit worried about the Mets beating us out at this point. The Japanese papers are reporting some debate among Yankees' brass about the sense of spending big on Matsuzaka, and while I believe that Cashman will ultimately make an aggressive move, the Mets and Rangers appear to be almost rabid about acquiring Daisuke. Don't be surprised to see him in orange and blue.

I was asked by Mike Axisa of Pending Pinstripes, over at the Most Valuable Network, to write up a piece on Matsuzaka. Swing over there and check it out. I'll be active at Matsuzaka Watch this week, so head over there too. If anything is happening, I'll be on top of it. See you later. Go Yankees.


singledd said...

Hey Mike,
I will say this. If the Sox get him, the cash outlay will be great enough to put a real crimp in what they have to spend for the remainder of the hot stove. After Manny, I'm not sure the Sox are willing to put 16-20mil in one guy of a long term contract.

Any news on Schilling? Is he still gonna be a decent pitcher for the Sox?

And how about that poor kid with Cancer? Haven't heard a thing about him.

I know the Sox dont want the Yankees to get Matsuzaka... but I wonder if they can afford him. Maybe they'ld be better throwing 5 mil to the Met....

baileywalk said...

Mike, I hope you keep saying that Mets will win the bid because you don't want to feel overconfident about the Yanks. It doesn't make any sense, really. The Yankees have been following Matsuzaka for years. They've been laying the groundwork for this forever. The Mets weren't involved until this off-season. In fact, the Mets involvement almost has a feel of "oh, what is everyone else doing? let's do that, too." The Mets have money, but they don't have Yankee money. And the Yankees were poised to make a staggering bid for ages. Why would they suddenly now get beat out? The only team I think that has a chance to outbid the Yanks is the Rangers. They are the wild card. Their owner is a billionaire who might do something silly to get a player (like he did with A-Rod). I don't think the Red Sox would spend 30 million dollars on a bid (they didn't want to pay Bobby Abreu 15 million this upcoming season). And Mets need pitching as much as the Yanks, but I find it almost impossible that they could outbid them. If they do, they'll probably have to spend something like 40 million dollars -- at which point even a great pitcher like Matsuzaka isn't worth it. (40 million plus maybe another 50 for his contract. Forget it.)

It's no guarantee that the Yanks get him, but I would say they have the best chance.

If Matsuzaka is wearing a Mets uniform next year, I will be vomiting every fifth day.

Joel Sherman was floating a Jack Peavy-to-the-Mets trade this morning. If the Mets land both Mats and Peavy, I will have to slam my head into a wall repeatedly.

Anonymous said...

Was listening to Micheal Kay's radio show on 1050 ESPN radio yesterday. Bobby Valentine was on to talk about Matsuzaka and he said some things I haven't heard before.

1. One reason Bobby seems to think that Matsuzaka will be successful is that he thinks umps in the Japanese league often condense there strike zone when a pitcher pushes a 0-2 count on a hitter. Apparently it has to do with a natural disposition to help hitters reach "the ultimate end" that being a 3-2 count.

2. The other thing Bobby said was that Matsuzaka does not have a great deal of experience handling strings of right handed power hitters and that Matsuzaka will likely give up a lot of homeruns his first year in the majors.

Mike Plugh said...

As for Bobby V's comments:

1. Japanese umpires may or may not expand the strikezone with 2 strikes, but that's neither here nor there with Matsuzaka. He's got tremendous control and knows how to hit his spots. If the zone in the US doesn't increase, he's still going to hit his spots with the fastball, slider, and change. He'll get guys to chase his wicked breaking stuff whether its in the zone or merely close. I don't see it as an issue.

2. Yeah, he'll probably give up more home runs. His ERA will go up a run and a half in his first year. What does that mean?

Add 1.50 to 2.13 and you get 3.68. I'll take that any day of the week. The issue of giving up more home runs doesn't scare me off. The thing that's impressive about Matsuzaka is his toughness and his ability to adjust to the circumstances he's handed. He won't be throwing a 2.13 ERA up in 2007, but what he will do is still good enough to make him one of the best pitchers in the game.

The final point on Bobby V...I think he's a bit goofy. He says a lot of things that are valuable and insightful, but he suddenly turns around and makes no sense at all. Take anything he says with a grain of salt, good or bad. If he tells you Matsuzaka will be an ace in 2007 and win the Cy Young, I'll rejoice and then remember it's Bobby V.

Anonymous said...

Mike, so Wednesday at 5 pm, will we know who has him? or will we have to wait several more days?

I would think even if Seibu or MLB tried to keep the winning team a secret, leaks would reveal who it was.

Mike Plugh said...

I believe it's announced almost immediately.

Tough stretch now...waiting.

jake said...

im worried that the rangers are going to come in hard for him. plus boras knows whatever team overspends on the posting has to come thru and sign him.

mars2001 said...

Mike -

I realize the bulk of the talk around here is the very exciting stuff regarding Matsuzaka - but frankly, with the lack of educated columnists writing stories right now (oh, he has a gyroball, but he's another Irabu... blah blah blah)...

I thought I'd suggest a much more enjoyable exercise: to try and figure out how to trade ARod and have it make the most sense [get the most value back]... I realize it's a rather pointless exercise, but I thought it would be enjoyable (not to mention drown out the drone)... let me know what you think - I'd be happy to contribute some analysis of my own.

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