With no baseballs to throw for a few months, teams are getting their fix by chucking money around. Baseball is booming financially, as the recent CBA talks showed, and the players and agents don’t need a second invitation to start cashing in. Never mind filling their pockets, they are backing up their trucks and hiring servants to stand by with their diamond encrusted shovels.
Does Matsuzaka mean â€œloads of moneyâ€ in English?
The Matsuzaka lucky dip is continuing, with the highest bid winging its way to the Seibu Lions for their consideration. ESPN report that the Red Sox have â€œwonâ€ the battle and that the bid may be between $38million and $45million (around Â£20m to Â£23.5m), which fits neatly with my football equivalent deal I proposed last week. It’s now up to the Seibu Lions as to whether they accept it and allow the Red Sox to negotiate with Matsuzaka’s agent, Scott Boras, on a (lucrative) contract. It seems a lot of money to turn down so I would guess it will go through. No doubt the Red Sox and Boras have already discussed a general contract prior to Boston tabling their bid (whether it’s against the rules or not, it happens all the time in football of course) so we may very well see Matsuzaka in a Red Sox uniform.
The big issue is whether Matsuzaka is the real thing or not. The smart bods at Baseball Prospectus have looked at this issue and have translated the stats from his last four seasons to compare them to the Major Leagues. I have to admit to being slightly taken aback when I saw how favourably his performance compared to that of Roger Clemens over the same period. Clemens has been outstanding during this time. Of course the only true way to determine how Matsuzaka will perform when facing Major League hitters is for him to actually face them, but the stats very starkly support the hype and money that surrounds him.
Everything suggests this guy will not just be a good Major League starter, but one of the small select band of dominating pitchers such as Santana, Halliday and the aforementioned Clemens. Much as I may regret it if he carves through the A’s batting lineup on a regular basis, I’m excited at the prospect of this Japanese pitcher coming to America and really being a top-notch superstar starter. So for the good of MLB I hope the Red Sox are successful in their quest to sign him, although if it turns out that the Yankees or Angels won after all I won’t be so keen!
Rogers + Sheffield = danger in Detroit (in more ways than one)
The first big trade was sealed this week with Gary Sheffield moving to the Tigers for three pitching prospects. The Yankees made the right call in picking up his option and then moving him on, despite it drawing Sheff’s ire. I don’t pretend to know much about minor league prospects, but the initial comments I have read suggest that the Yanks have done very well out of the deal. Their farm system has taken a hammering in recent years due to their â€œtomorrow’s for wimps when you’ve got more money than senseâ€ attitude. This will add a few good young arms to their system while moving an expensive piece who no longer really fits in their plans. As for the Tigers, you have to admire their determination to build on last season. Sheffield can be a big impact bat, sorely lacking in their World series defeat; however â€œcanâ€ is the operative word. Sheffield has been an offensive powerhouse for many years but that offers no guarantees on his future performance bearing in mind he is about to turn 38 and missed most of last season with a wrist injury. Add in his â€œdifficultâ€ reputation and the $41million price tag over the next three seasons looks a gamble to say the least.
Still, add Sheff’s bat to the 2006 Tigers and they would have probably been the World Champs. If he is the one piece in the puzzle that can push this talented group to the ultimate prize then he will be worth the money. It’s a big â€œifâ€, but team’s like the Tigers only have a small window of opportunity to capitalise on at any given time (and I mean no disrespect with that comment). By all accounts he has a good relationship with Jim Leyland, so it’s a gamble worth taking. Yes, it could end in tears and us lot watching on the sidelines will be able to use hindsight to ridicule the decision, but fear of failure will get you nowhere. The Tigers are taking a shot and that’s to be applauded in my book.
Liriano laid low (along with all baseball fans)
One of the things the Tigers have no doubt considered is that the strength of the AL Central leaves no room for complacency. Sadly, the team who beat them to the division crown may not be such a formidable force this time around. The loss of Francisco Liriano to Tommy John surgery for the entire 2007 season is bad news for any baseball fan, let alone for the Twins. Having seen how Mark Prior’s career has been derailed by injury, we can only hope that Liriano can return in 2008 and turn his huge talent into a long and successful career.
J(ust) D(ollars) Drew
In the last few days, a couple of veterans have re-signed with their clubs. Both Craig Biggio and Jim Edmonds will be returning to the Astros and the Cards respectively. J.D. Drew meanwhile will be changing uniforms for 2007. Drew shocked the Dodgers be taking advantage of a clause in his five year contract that allowed him to opt out of his final three years. The Dodgers made the play-offs via the NL Wild Card and Drew had previously stated how much he was enjoying his time in L.A. The reason he has ripped up his contract is essentially because $33 million over the next three years is just not enough money for him and his agent Scott Boras; who, as we say in Norfolk; â€œis all about, like shit in a fieldâ€. Boras has even had the cheek to publicly state that Drew would be happy to re-sign with the Dodgers, if they give him more money. Dodgers’ GM Ned Colletti has rightfully told Boras to do one.
I have some sympathy for the Dodgers; however agreeing to the clause was a mistake in the first place. It’s a bit like giving a bank robber the keys to the safe. And as MLB.com reports, Drew has a proven record of shamelessly filling his pockets:
â€œDrew, who turns 31 later this month, is no stranger to surprising and contentious decisions. He was the second player taken in the 1997 First-Year Player Draft by the Phillies, but only after protesting that the draft was unfair and warning all teams it would take $10 million to sign him.
He held out the entire season and took Major League Baseball to an arbitration hearing over the legality of the draft, but finally re-entered the draft the following year, when the Cardinals made him the fifth overall pick and gave him a four-year deal worth $7 million guaranteed.â€
At times like this, I’m glad the A’s don’t have large financial resources. It’s safe to say we won’t be signing J(ust) D(ollars) Drew. What a shame.
Any more for any more?
Not that it’s necessarily fair for me to single Drew out though; there’s plenty more doing exactly the same right now. Is it wrong? Would I act differently if I was in their shoes? I don’t begrudge sportsmen (and women) earning good money when they are the one’s who put bums on seats (I would sooner it goes to them than agents that’s for sure). I’m also not so naive to think that, given the chance, I would say â€œno thanksâ€ to earning some of the sums that make us roll our eyes and think about the salaries of nurses, policemen, firemen et al. I think I just have an in-built tolerance level beyond which players enter â€œGreedy Bastardâ€ territory. It’s the point where you feel that the player no longer loves playing the game and earning very good money for doing so, to where he simply enjoys earning as much money as possible.
Ultimately, fairly or not, that’s why I’ve picked on Drew today. By my reckoning, he has earned $40million in the last nine years and was going to make a further $33 million over the next three, yet he’s prepared to walk out of a play-off team just to earn even more.
Aramis Ramirez has essentially pulled the same contract trick, but then again you can’t blame a guy for wanting to leave the Cubs right now. Ramirez’s situation really sums everything up. His agent is trying to play the nice guy in the media, stating how much Ramirez wants to stay in Chicago(!) and promising the Cubs a â€œhome town discountâ€. It’s a funny discount that costs you more money if you ask me, but I guess that’s the financial climate baseball is in.
UPDATE: 2006-11-12 9.48 pm.Â It’s just been announced that the Cubs have agreed a new five year deal with Ramirez.Â I suppose you have to tip your hat to his agent, who has served his client well by effectively bagging a three year extension with (presumably – as financial details have not been released yet) a healthy increase in money thrown in for good measure.