All Things Baseball

Profile: Daisuke Matsuzaka

Daisuke Matsuzaka

This offseason’s most treasured available player is not even on US soil yet.  He’s Japanese superstar righthander Daisuke Matsuzaka.  Matsuzaka has plenty of things going for him; he might be the best player ever to come from Japan to the MLB, he was the MVP of the inaugural World Baseball Classic, he has the best “stuff” of any free agent pitcher this offseason, and last but not least, he’s likely to rake in the big bucks despite having no MLB experience.  Matsuzaka is different from any other free agent in that there’s nothing free about him; his estimated price is making all but 6-8 MLB team’s owners cringe, and their GM’s balk at his cost while salivating over his potential.  Here’s my prediction of what Matsuzaka will do in his first MLB season, which team he’ll play for, and what he’ll cost. 

First, I’ll explain the “auction” by which MLB teams are bidding for the rights to negotiate with Matsuzaka.  The Seibu Lions posted Matsuzaka for bidding, and the MLB teams that choose to submit a bid will do so by something very similar to a silent auction.  Seibu will reveal the winner on Wednesday-Thursday, allowing that team to begin negotiations on a contract.  Bad news for that team: Matsuzaka has chosen his agent, and its the man every GM who has dealt with him hates — Scott Boras.  The winning bid is expected to be no less than $20Million and could get as high as $32Million according to some insiders.  And Matsuzaka’s salary will be added to the bid to calculate the total cost for bringing in the Japanese superstar.  That’s more money than most of us will ever care to think about. 

But it might be worth it.  Matsuzaka has been compared to Curt Schilling, Roy Oswalt, Roger Clemens, and John Smoltz.  Any time you find a pitcher who is being compared to that quartet, you know you’ve found something special.  It’s difficult to predict how Matsuzaka will do in his first MLB season, but he seems to be a near-lock to become an ace within 2 years. 

Matsuzaka was extremely effective in Japan, using his famous “gyroball” (ultra-super-plus curveball) to perfection, and coupling it with effective fastballs to baffle hitters.  I doubt he’ll be able to match his Japanese numbers in the MLB, but I think he will pitch effectively and be a top-3 contender for Rookie of the Year of his league.  He’s probably best-suited to be a #2 pitcher for a team that will soon need an ace, because Matsuzaka likely won’t be ready to assume the #1 role immediately, but will almost certainly be ready to 1-2 seasons after his debut. 

I think Matsuzaka will do something like this in his first season…

  • Record: 14-10
  • ERA: 3.60
  • WHIP: 1.33
  • Strikeouts: 160-175
  • HR allowed: 20-25

In other words, I think Matsuzaka will be terrific.  I don’t know however, if those numbers will be good enough to justify forking over a total of 80 million to have him for 3 seasons. 

Which team will win the rights to Daisuke Matsuzaka?

Some teams can afford DM, others can’t even think of spending that kind of money.  Here’s the bottom line: there are 5-7 teams that I think will place a bid.  The Mariners were considered the favorite, before saying they wouldn’t even participate in the auction.  Seattle is a hugely profitable franchise and if the M’s are out, it probably means things will get extremely expensive.  That leaves 2-3 teams that can realistically afford Matsuzaka, and maybe 4 that will bid on him.  Who are they?  Well, you know one of them is the Yankees, who are likely to bid high, unless GM Brian Cashman and the Boss decide to pursue American free agents like Jason Schmidt and Barry Zito.  Another is just across town in the New York Mets, who need another starter in the worst way, with Pedro Martinez hinting at potential retirement and Tom Glavine’s status unknown.  The third is the Yankees’ bitter rival, the Boston Red Sox, who have the money to pursue DM — nicknamed the “Japanese Schilling”.  The fourth is the LA Dodgers, who have some money — though likely not enough — and need to add depth to their starting staff.  In my mind, it comes down to the NY’s and Boston, with the Dodgers dropping out unless the winning bid is $20M or less.

Prediction: The Mets win the rights to Daisuke Matsuzaka with a bid of $27.5 million.  Matsuzaka will then sign a 3year contract worth around 45Million. 

For a scouting report on Daisuke Matsuzaka, see Jason Churchill’s blog, Prospect Insider, at 


Trivia Time!

Yesterday’s question (see: Gold Glove Voting is Rigged)…

Which former MLB shortstop won 12 Gold Gloves for his terrific defense?

The correct answer…

Ozzie Smith

Today’s question is…

Can you name the 10 current MLB players who were born in Japan?


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