Posted: Wednesday December 13, 2006 2:12PM; Updated: Thursday December 14, 2006 8:56AM
Including the $51.1 million posting fee, the Red Sox will pay more than $100 million for Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Donald Miralle/Getty Images
By Jon Heyman, SI.com
Daisuke Matsuzaka has reached a deal with the Boston Red Sox for six years, $52 million, a source close to the negotiations has told SI.com. The deal contains escalator clauses that could bring it up to $60 million. (For more details on the signing, click here.)
The clauses are similar to the ones in the contract of Josh Beckett, another starting Red Sox pitcher, a person connected to the team said.
Matsuzaka and the Red Sox came to an agreement shortly before both sides boarded a private jet out of Orange County, Calif., around 9 a.m. PST on Wednesday. Matsuzaka is to take a physical shortly after landing in Boston.
The deadline to sign Matsuzaka, the most heralded pitcher in the Japan League, was midnight Thursday. But the sides rushed to finish the deal by early Wednesday so there'd be time to conduct a physical and to get the blood work back.
When Matsuzaka, agent Scott Boras and Red Sox officials all boarded the plane, speculation was high that a deal was at hand after very difficult negotiations over 29 days. "They all took off together,'' Red Sox owner John Henry wrote to the AP in an email. "Assume a deal is done or close.''
SI.com confirmed a deal had, in fact, been struck for the righthanded superstar who was 108-60 in his career with the Seibu Lions and MVP of the inaugural World Baseball Classic, won by Japan, this past spring.
The Red Sox won the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka by bidding $51.1 million in the posting process, and not long thereafter there was word of the two sides being far apart. "World's apart,'' the Boston Herald correctly called it in a story that characterized the early gap.
However, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, determined to land Matsuzaka, who was 17-5 with a 2.13 ERA this past season for Seibu, pushed hard for compromise. In the end, it was Epstein who got Red Sox chairman Tom Werner to sign off on the deal, a record contract for a Japanese League player on top of the record posting price.
Epstein knew the Red Sox needed to sign Matsuzaka after the arch rival Yankees recently added Andy Pettitte for a deal that will likely pay Pettitte $32 million over two years, assuming he doesn't retire after the 2007 season.
The Red Sox made an initial six-year offer weeks ago. Team officials few to Southern California on Monday to meet with Boras and Matsuzaka and to assure that a deal got done. The Boston Herald reported on a blog Wednesday morning that the Red Sox were offering $48 million over six years while Matsuzaka was seeking $66 million. The two sides compromised at $52 million, which is $38 million more than Ichiro Suzuki got from the Mariners after they won a posting process in the winter of 2000-2001, and $31 million more than Hideki Matsui's initial free-agent deal with the Yankees.
Both sides agreed that Matsuzaka was worth at least $100 million over six years in a free-agent situation. But the pitcher's problem was that he was not a free agent; his options were limited to signing with Boston or returning to Seibu and trying to post again next winter or become a free agent in two years.
There were some who thought that perhaps Boras could try to buy Matsuzaka's free agency from Seibu at a compromise figure or convince the Lions to employ him at a higher salary -- they paid him only about $3 million last year -- in 2007, then re-post him next year. But the reality is that both sides badly wanted to strike a deal.
The Red Sox needed Matsuzaka, and the pitcher wanted to come to the big leagues after trying unsuccessfully to post in previous seasons.