When the bidding process ends on Wednesday of this week, MLB will notify the Lions of the amount of the highest bid, but not the team that has submitted it. The Lions then have four days to accept or reject the bid. Acceptance of the bid would give Matsuzaka 30 days to negotiate a deal with that team; should they fail to reach an agreement on a contract, the bid returns to the team that made it, and Matsuzaka returns to Japan.
Contextually, the New York Times reported that the Seibu Lions are in dire financial straits given some recent management improprieties, and they are inclined to accept the bid (estimated at around $20M). On top of that, Matsuzaka has publicly said that he is interested in playing in the major leagues.
What’s weird about this whole process, however, is the way that the bidding process transpires. Rather than being a closed bid or auction process, Seibu is not only allowed to have contact with prospective bidders, but they are also allowed to arrange side deals to the auction, which could include refunding some of the bid amount altogether. For example, instead of simply bidding $30M, a team could overbid $50M in order to secure the “win” with MLB, and then have the Lions “refund” $20M of the money post-transaction. Some have speculated that this is what transpired in 2000 when the Mariners bid $13M for Ichiro from the Blue Wave; many believe Seattle never had to pay the full $13M amount.
And after this whole charade of a bidding process is complete, the “winning” bidder gets the chance to negotiate with Matsuzaka’s agent: Scott Boras.
So where does this leave the Dodgers? Our pitching needs are multifold but another quality starting pitcher, to complement Derek Lowe and potentially Brad Penny, would obviously be welcome. And our track record with Japanese pitchers runs both good (Nomo) and bad (Ishii). But going through this ridiculous prelude, “bidding” against the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, and Cubs, just for the right to play chicken with Boras, seems like a fairly high-stakes gambit. Colletti already has Boras on his cell phone speed dial, since he represents both Maddux and Gagne (as well as Zito), and entering this current fray would signal how desperate our hunger is, well before we get to some of the other, potentially more savory entrees in the buffet line. Unless there is some way that we can strike a package deal with Boras—buy two, get one free?—it seems like this is a heck of a lot of work to do for Matsuzaka. I hope we pass.
Did I mention Matsuzaka was only 14-13 in 2005?