Posted: Wednesday November 29, 2006 11:50AM; Updated: Thursday November 30, 2006 1:28PM
MLB "reviewing" Lucchino trip
The posting system is out of whack now. But it's too late to change the rules in the Daisuke Matsuzaka case.
The Boston Herald reported that Red Sox honcho Larry Lucchino was in Japan meeting with Seibu officials and speculated that he might try to convince Seibu to contribute $10 million or so of the $51.1 million winning bid to help them get Matsuzaka signed. But if Lucchino actually did do that, that's not allowed.
While Seibu doesn't deserve to reap $51.1 million after underpaying D-Mat to the tune of only around $3 million last year, by rule, the Lions can't help Boston bridge its thought-to-be considerable gap with agent Scott Boras. That would be unfair to all the losing bidders for D-Mat, starting with the Mets, Angels, Cubs, Rangers and Yankees, who would join together to raise one hell of a stink if Boston really did try anything like that.
A Red Sox person said he didn't believe that was the purpose of Lucchino's visit, that he was there on more of a "fact finding'' mission.
But just in case, Major League Baseball is said by an official to be "reviewing'' the case. In the words of one MLB person, there are no givebacks. The reason for that should be obvious. All teams understood going in that A) it was a blind bid and, B) that they could swing no side deals for Seibu to surrender part of the money after the bids were in.
It's too late for that loophole.
However, things are just getting interesting. Though it has never been tried, one potentially conceivable way to even things out for Matsuzaka and Seibu might be for the pitcher to buy his free agency from Seibu after the 30-day negotiating window expires Dec. 15. In other words, if he can't do a deal with Boston, he could possibly pay Seibu a negotiated amount -- say $30 million -- for his free agency, then have multiple choices where to play. Seibu would prefer the $51.1 million, but by then they'd have no choice.
Still, the most likely scenario has Matsuzaka and Boston finding common ground as the Dec. 15 deadline approaches. While Matsuzaka's leverage is limited by his ability to negotiate with one team, the pressure is high on Boston to get a deal done after the whole story has created international buzz. If they don't offer a reasonable amount, they'd open themselves to charges they weren't bargaining in good faith and risk losing credibility in Japan, which is becoming a fertile ground for talent.
Next up for Cubs: Schmidt
The Cubs, hungry to end their 98-year non-winning streak, aren't stopping at Soriano and Mark DeRosa. Lou Piniella and all the others and are now eagerly trying to convince free-agent pitcher Jason Schmidt to consider leaving the West Coast. Cubs GM Jim Hendry, whose successful $136 million Soriano bid was a stealthy move, disputed Tuesday that a deal was on the table. But multiple sources indicate the Cubs are positioning with the hopes of landing the second best free-agent pitcher available, after Barry, if Chicago can convince him to leave the West Coast.
Counting new manager Piniella, Hendry's Tribune-authorized tab is up to $239 million on his way to close to $280 million or more (if he gets his pitcher/pitchers).
A longtime Giant, Schmidt has already said no to the Yankees and is pegged by many to remain on the West Coast. It's curious as to why his former team doesn't appear to be at the forefront of the bidding with the Dodgers, Padres and his home state Mariners.
Seattle and the Dodgers are considered the favorites. But should the Cubs get Schmidt, they go from high-priced curiosity to contender. If they don't get him, they probably go for underachieving-yet-talented Gil Meche. The Cubs are also believed to be considering Julio Lugo, who's being pursued by the Mets and Red Sox, for center field. In that case, Soriano would play left field for them.