Bosox in final attempt to sign Matsuzaka info
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. - Boston Red Sox president Larry Lucchino and general manager Theo Epstein traveled to California on Monday in a final attempt to sign Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka.
The pair used the plane of Red Sox controlling owner John Henry and planned to meet Tuesday with Matsuzaka and his agent, Scott Boras.
"We're on Scott Boras' doorstep because he hasn't negotiated with us thus far and we're taking the fight directly to him, the fight to have a negotiation here," Henry said.
The deadline for Boston to reach an agreement with Matsuzaka is midnight EST Thursday, but because the Red Sox insist that the pitcher have a physical prior to a deal, the team says Matsuzaka must travel to Boston on Henry's plane Wednesday morning in time to have the necessary medical tests.
"We flew out unsolicited and called immediately upon landing and asked for a meeting not only with Scott but also with Daisuke," Epstein said. "We do have plans to meet tomorrow and at that time will present a second offer, an improved offer. We're not frustrated. We're just doing everything possible under the sun to get a deal done."
Boras held a news conference Monday evening at his office some 45 miles south of Los Angeles. Boras wouldn't comment directly on the negotiations, but did say: "Free agent pitchers who are 26 and have Matsuzaka-like ability receive salaries in excess of $100 million over five or six years in free agency."
Boston then held a late-night telephone conference call. The Red Sox said on the call they also intend to sign Masumi Kuwata, a 38-year-old right-hander who has spent 21 seasons with the Yomiuri Giants.
The Red Sox submitted a high bid of $51.1 million last month, giving them exclusive rights to negotiate with Matsuzaka for 30 days. The Red Sox pay the bid fee to his Japanese team, the Seibu Lions, only if there is an agreement. If there is no deal, the rights for the 26-year-old right-hander revert to the Lions, and he can't be put up for bid again until next November.
Under Japanese rules, Matsuzaka isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2008 season.
"In Japan, he's known as the national treasure," Boras told some three dozen media representatives - nearly all representing Japanese outlets. "Here, he will be known as Fort Knox."
Epstein agreed Matsuzaka is worth $100 million - but unlike Boras, Epstein includes the posting fee in his math.
"That magnitude is certainly the right ballpark for the commitment of the ballclub," Epstein said.
Because of the record amount bid by Boston, reaching an agreement has been difficult.
"The posting fee represents the problem," Boras said. "It's historic, it's new, it's something that's never been done. How do you reflect value in a posting fee in an appropriate contract for a player?
"In the American system, no player is asked to reduce their salaries for luxury tax purposes."
Boston said it will make another offer even though Boras has never made a counterproposal to the first contract package offered by the Red Sox.
"It's highly unusual but again signing Matsuzaka is extremely important to the Boston Red Sox and we're very committed to making sure that happens," Epstein said. "Although it's normally not good policy to make a second offer without receiving a counteroffer, we want to demonstrate to Matsuzaka and to fans of Japanese baseball around the world just how important this is to us. Matsuzaka represents more than himself. He really represents the entire nation of baseball fans who have been looking forward to this day."
Boras has suggested that Matsuzaka could pitch in Japan next year and wait until he is a free agent to switch to the big leagues.
"One thing is clear - D-Mat will someday be a major league player," Boras said. "We have further negotiating to do. The deadline's not here in five minutes. The parties do understand what this player's value is in the free-agent system."
Boras said the decision whether Matsuzaka will join the Red Sox or return to Japan will be made by his client, who earned MVP honors after pitching Japan to the championship of the inaugural World Baseball Classic last March.
Matsuzaka has a 108-60 career record in Japan with a 2.95 ERA and 1,355 strikeouts in 204 games.
"This decision is going to be Daisuke's, he has to make the call," Boras said.
Boras said Matsuzaka, who flew into Southern California on Saturday, has been throwing and working out for three to four hours a day.
When asked why he called a news conference, Boras smiled and replied: "I think this is the American way."