I read an article in the Boston Herald today, and it was picked up by Fox Sports and ESPN.com about how the negotiations over the contract for Daisuke Matsuzaka have "stalled," and ESPN even went as far as to say the deal is "nearly dead."
Complete hogwash, folks. This deal WILL get done. Count on it.
There's too much at stake for everyone involved, especially on the side of the highly-touted Japanese pitcher.
Matsuzaka can ONLY sign with the Sox this winter, as they won his bidding rights in a secret auction for an astounding price of $51.1 million. If he does not sign with the Red Sox, he must return to Japan and pitch for the Seibu Lions for the 2007 and 2008 seasons, and then he will once again become a free agent eligible to play in the United States again.
I am not at all surprised that Matsuzaka has not signed yet, as he has until midnight Thursday to reach an agreement or he returns home to Japan. His American agent is the notorious Scott Boras, who enjoys playing games and dragging out negotiations on behalf of his clients.
The onus to get Matsuzaka in a Red Sox uniform right now is completely on Boras. He has very little leverage right now, as NO ONE else is bidding for his client's services. Boras probably figured that he would stretch out the negotiations as far as possible in an effort to get the Red Sox to blink first and overpay for Matsuzaka. The Japanese pitcher has come out said said he definitely wants to pitch in Boston this upcoming season.
Matsuzaka clearly cannot return to Seibu, as he's made his final goodbyes in Japan and everyone there expects him to pitch in America this year. If he were forced to return, it would be a point of shame for Matsuzaka, and the Japanese fans would look at him as being greedy if he could not strike a deal with the Sox. It may not sound like much in America, but in Japan it would be a huge, big deal.
And for the Seibu Lions, this deal HAS to get done, as the club is in dire financial straits, and need this windfall for their financial health. How do you think the club will treat Matsuzaka if he has to return to them in 2007? It won't be fun for him, you have to think.
If no deal were consumated, the Red Sox would take their $51.1 million dollars back and go out and find another starter for next season. They will not have lost a single penny, and Matsuzaka will lose two prime years pitching in America (and the big money that goes with it).
I also heard that Matsuzaka was in America in the last few days, filming a commercial in California. You have to figure he wouldn't do that if he weren't going to sign, right? It would make the commercial worthless in America if he has to haul his butt back to Japan until 2009.
Also remember, Boras is Matsuzaka's agent in America, not Japan. If his client returns to Japan, Boras gets absolutely nothing out of this (and Matsuzaka should fire Boras' ass immediately if he doesn't sign).
I believe that the pessimism out of Boston over the weekend is just a smokescreen, and that the Red Sox are being very tight-lipped about the negotiations. I'm still convinced that this is all just a lot of BS posturing by Boras, and in the next 48 hours the really serious negotiations will occur, and a deal with be announced either on Wednesday, Thursday or even Friday. I'm sure that Matsuzaka himself will force the issue if he has to (if he feels that Boras doesn't have his best interests at heart). I can't see him playing in Japan next season.
A deal will get done. Count on it.