$51.1 million: it boggles the mind

November 16th, 2006 → 8:36 am @ // 9 Comments

Astute observers may have noticed that there was not a single post up yesterday, the first full day after the Red Sox had been declared winners in the right-to-talk-with-Matsuzaka’s-agent sweepstakes. (For some reason, there’s still some lingering confusion on the following point: if the Red Sox don’t sign Matsuzaka, they’re not on the hook for that $51.1 mil.) The simple answer for that is that I was busy; the more complicated answer is that I’m a bit…confused.

Not, mind you, about why the Sox did what they did (although when you come in $20 or so million above the next closest bidder, it does seem there might have been a bit more wiggle room) — Matsuzaka has the potential to be one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball, and a starting rotation with a three-headed, 26-year old monster of Matsuzaka, Beckett, and Papelbon looks pretty damn formidable. (As Peter Gammons points out, Boston also has “Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard on the horizon” as other potential young-stud starters; what’s more, Matsuzaka is obviously a way to plant a Red Sox flag in the Far East, both in terms of talent and marketing dollars.)

But this type of bid means the Sox have forever forfeited the right to bitch about the Yankees endless pockets…and that’s frustrating, both because it’s satisfying being thought of (and thinking of yourself) as an underdog, and because it belies the reality that the Sox will never have as much flexibility as the Yankees. Sean McAdam is right: that the notion of the Yanks as the Evil Empire, Abreu-acquiring, uber- organization just went out the window. “No more suggestions, please, that the Yankees are some financial superpower capable of trampling the rest of baseball with their reckless and boundless spending. No more talk about the Red Sox being the plucky underdogs that somehow must make do with less,” McAdam wrote on ESPN. He’s right. Even Gammons pointed out that “[t]he Red Sox have posted more money than their professional scouting director, Allard Baird, had to sign his entire team as the GM in Kansas City.”

I’m also worried — about Matsuzaka’s previous workload (in today’s Globe, Gordon Edes makes a comparison with Hideo Nomo: “Over the span of 21 months, he would belong to six teams. It appeared his heavy workload in Japan had caught up with him. He had thrown more than 140 pitches 61 times in his career, by one estimate, and in his last season in Japan he threw a staggering 191 pitches in one game, walking 16 batters”) and about the fact that the Sox will be negotiating while the other (far less skilled) free-agent pitchers are deciding where to land.

Finally, I’m confused. On the one hand, I understand that a past decision shouldn’t overly inform a current one, and what the Red Sox did with Bronson Arroyo or Johnny Damon doesn’t really have anything to do with Matsuzaka; that’s a cornerstone of the rational philosophy the Sox’s front office tries to adhere to. But…that’s a lot of money to pay for the right to sign a player, and it’s hard not to think back to the hometown discount Arroyo gave the Sox before he was traded away. Arroyo is a proven pitcher. And he’s shown he’s a workhorse. I’m also a bit confused as to how precisely this jibes with Theo’s stated notion that he wants to focus on developing young talent. Matsuzaka is young, but isn’t Boston becomming the type of uber-organization Theo warned against immediately after the ’05 season? (For a full description of that moment, check out the introduction to my book.) I’m not the only one who’s found this whole affair a bit vertiginous: the Matsuzaka frenzy has even put Dan Shaughnessy in a good mood. (Everyone remember this if/when Matsuzaka ends up on the Sox and the decision is eventually deemed a bad one…)

So…there’s a lot to mull over. I’m heading down to Boston today for a fundraiser at Fenway, so I likely won’t post again until tonight. But there’ll be lots of cogitating between now and then. And I welcome any and all of your thoughts…


Post Categories: Daisuke Matsuzaka & Red Sox front office & Sports Reporters

9 Comments → “$51.1 million: it boggles the mind”


  1. HFXBOB

    11 years ago

    According to Nick Cafardo of the Globe the second-highest bid was by the Mets at $38 million, which is $13.1 million less than the Sox not $20 million.

    Isn’t it a bit laughable to say that with this transaction the Sox can no longer portray themselves as the poor guys who can’t compete with the Evil Empire? I would argue that this transaction doesn’t really change their position that much. It’s been several years since people began pointing at the Sox as Evil Empire #1A to the Yankees #1. We already had the second-highest payroll and we will continue to if we sign Matsuzaka. The total cost for 4 years has been projected at about $90 million or $22.5 per year. That’s huge alright, but not much more than our current left fielder and not much more than Roger Clemens would command.

    I think this does show that the Sox brass has been stung by the harsh reviews from 2006 and were fully committed to not losing out on this deal. Let’s imagine for a moment that the Sox bid was $36 million instead of $51 million. What do you think the reaction would be? It would be deja vu of the infamous A-Rod ‘failure’ where we fell $15 million short and Steinbrenner scalded Henry for not going the distance for his fans in Boston.
    You know that John didn’t want to have to eat words like that again.

    Reply

  2. Ogie Oglethorpe

    11 years ago

    I don’t think that this move is a departure from the Sox philosophy at all. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, the Sox identified as such and went after it. How often does a top of the rotation stater become available at 26 years old? Does this mean that they will sign Soriano and Zito too? No. That would be something that the Yanks would do if they didn’t already have a 15 million dollar player at EVERY position.

    Personally I think part of the rationale (other than expanding their talent pool and marketing ops) behind this move was that the Sox plan on developing their own players. They are basically two or three drafts into restocking (was it ever stocked???) their minor league system. Basically their best prospects are about 2 seasons away and they had needs to fill THIS offseason. So, if this were any other offseason they could trade their prospects for established players and continue to deplete the minor league system. Never really giving it a chance to be teaming with prospects at various levels.

    By winning the rights to negotiate with Matzusaka and hopefully signing him, they can add a top starter and continue to build the minor league talent pool. If Lester comes back later this year and hopefully is ready to assume a starting roll next season after Schilling leaves then our rotation is more or less set for the next 4 or 5 seasons. Along the way they can start working in the likes Bucholtz, Bard, Cox, Masterson, Hansen and Bowden or trade some of their excess pitching (if there is such a thing) for other needs such as positional players. I think this huge move was in part to help enable the minor league development plan not to start a trend of buying the best players available every offseason.

    Reply

  3. gary

    11 years ago

    I’m a big fan of your book (and blog) Seth, but I think you missed the mark on this one, and agree with much of the first two comments

    I’m not sure how you can look at this single deal and suddenly conclue the sox are on the level of the yankees. Even at number two we were somewhere in the ballpark of 80 million below ny in spending. If a year or two from now if the sox are still 50 to 80 million below ny, how can you say there’s no difference?

    I think the theo was stung by the notion that he didn’t do enough at the trading deadline, and this is the result. But it doesn’t mean this isn’t a blip on the radar.

    Pitching is the key and becoming rarer by the year. You can’t compare this to letting damon go. As for arroyo, you say he’s a ‘proven pitcher’. I think you forgot the word ‘mediocre’ between those two words (at least in the AL). The sox aren’t betting on Matsuzaka to be a mediocre pitcher. They’re counting on him to be an ace. If he’s the next arroyo, the deal is a bad one regardless.

    I’m not saying I have full confidence in this deal, but I understand why they pulled the trigger. They’re taking a chance, but the upside could be huge, and if they had lost out to ny again, hell would have been the result

    Reply

  4. tinisoli

    11 years ago

    I love this move. If Daisuke were just another MLB free agent, available to any of the big-spending teams, it’s conceivable that he’d command $15 million per year over 4 years. By having exclusive rights to negotiate with him, Theo et al can play hardball with Boras and maybe get this kid for around $10 million per year (which seems to be their favorite number lately). Right now, the worst-case scenario is they keep other teams from getting hold of this talent this time around, with no real money having been spent. The best-case is he costs them a Beckett-like sum each year for the next half decade, they eat the one-time cost of $51.1 million, and the expansion into Asia works wonders for their marketing efforts, possibly negating some of that initial cost. Best of all, by paying exorbitantly for the bid rather than the actual contract, they avoid getting nearer to the luxury tax threshold. Seems like a no-brainer.

    As for the losing the title of “underdog,” it’s time we all grew up and realized that we can’t have our cake and eat it too. If the Sox were to trim their payroll just to retain (or regain) their membership in the underdog/non-Yankees club it would be derided throughout Red Sox Nation as “cut and run” capitulation and a betrayal of the fans who pack Fenway’s cramped, overpriced seats year after year. Sure, maybe talent and luck could still get a cheaper Sox club to the Series every once in a while, but I certainly prefer the idea of getting to the playoffs 8 out of 10 years and having a shot at the Series in any given season.

    Reply

  5. MightyLost

    11 years ago

    The previous 4 commenters were right on the money. One other way to look at the posting fee is by looking at the money they didn’t spend over the last few years. They saved around $35 million over 4 years by signing Crisp instead of Damon and saved millions more (and prospects) by not pulling off the Abreu trade. One could argue they dodged an expensive bullet with Pedro too. Neither Damon, Abreu or Pedro would have saved the ’06 season. So subtract all that money they saved from the posting fee and it’s really doesn’t seem that extravagant. We’re meant to believe that for the Red Sox to have been “consistent” they should have signed Pedro and Damon, traded for Abreu *and* bid 51m for Matsuzaka and declared their position as Evil Uber Empire #2, or done none at all and embraced their “under dog” status. Yet I think their approach *has* been consistent. Spend money on talented young players when the opportunity is unique and don’t spend money on good but older talent when there are cheaper, younger options available.

    Reply

  6. crimsonohsix

    11 years ago

    “By having exclusive rights to negotiate with him, Theo et al can play hardball with Boras and maybe get this kid for around $10 million per year (which seems to be their favorite number lately)”

    Even if they get the kid for 4 years at $10 million per year, they are effectively paying $91.1MM/4 = $22.5 million per year for him. That’s over $4.5 million/year more than the Astros paid for Clemens in his historic 2005 contract.

    I’m usually a huge defender of this front office’s moves. But unless they just bid $51.1MM with absolutely no intention of signing him (which is entirely possible), how does this move make any sense?

    Reply

  7. maineiac

    11 years ago

    The part that is left out of much of the math of this deal is the potential for Red Sox marketing in Japan. If NESN can land a rebroadcasting contract, etc. because of Dice-K, the $51.1 could be partially or maybe even totally eroded through these new revenues. This scenario is only possible by landing a Japanese superstar. If you sign Zito or even Clemens, the Red Sox are NOT entering into a new revenue market. They are stuck with the same ole revenue stream and the Sox’s only option is to squeeze more out of us. I think the hit to the team is much less than the sum of the contract and bidding rights.

    The important converse to this is that the Yankees have already saturated the Japanese market and their posting fee would truely be addititive to whatever contract Mr. Boras got out of them. Making what they pay similar to the math used by crimsonohsix.

    At a minimum, the difference between the Red Sox’s current marketing in Japan and their possible marketing opportunities versus the Yankee’s current and hypothetical if they got Dice-K, represents the $20 million diffence in the two teams’ bids. With this considered, the Yankees overbid by as much if not more than the Red Sox.

    i.e.,
    Red Sox Bidding Fee + Dice-K Contract – Japanese Marketing Yen

    Reply

  8. Ogie Oglethorpe

    11 years ago

    Here is something from today’s Herald to consider for everybody who hails Arroyo as the biggest gaff that the Red Sox front office has made:

    Tomo Ohka has similar career numbers to Bronson Arroyo. He is 48-58 with a 4.04 ERA, 174 starts and a 2.06 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Arroyo is 47-44 with a 4.21 ERA, 161 starts and a 2.17 ratio. Two other AL East clubs as well as a number of NL teams also have inquired about Ohka, Masteralexis said.

    He actually has a better career ERA…

    Reply

  9. HFXBOB

    11 years ago

    crimsonohsix:

    Clemens’ 2006 contract was $22 million pro-rated over the number of games he played.

    Reply

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