The Time Has Finally Come
The Yankees learned yesterday that a top free agent, the right-handed starter Daisuke Matsuzaka, will be available this winter.
As expected, Matsuzaka’s Japanese team, the Seibu Lions, agreed to post him for major league teams, who will submit sealed bids for the right to negotiate with him.
Wow, I hope the Mets find out about this too, Omar and Fred might be interested in Daisuke. Matsuzaka broke into the Japanese League at 18 years old and has been dominant since day one. He owns a mid 90's fastball and owns a career record of 108 - 60 and has a career ERA of 3.07. Daisuke was 16 - 7 with a 2.83 ERA in 2003 and he started 19 games. He struck out 215 people in 194 innings while walking only 63. In 2004 he is 9-6 with a 2.96 ERA. His strikeouts were down that year and his walks were up, but he rebounded a big way in 2005 when he set a career low in ERA. That is until he laid waste to the league this season and set a career low in ERA with 2.08, career high in K/BB with 6.06, a career low in BB/9 with 1.59, and a career low in WHIP with 0.92. His 6.71 h/9 and his .199 BAA were just sparkling.
The intriguing thing about Daisuke is how dominant he has been on the international stage. In 2004, he was dominant in the Olympics. Against the eventual Silver Medal winning Australians he went 7.2 innings giving up five hits, one earned run, three base on balls, and struck out thirteen. Against the eventual Gold Medal winning Cuban team Daisuke went 8.1 innings giving up seven hits, allowing two earned runs, walking one, and striking out seven. His performance was well documented this season in the World Baseball Classic as he won the MVP award while helping the Japanese team win the entire tournament. For Japan, Matsuzaka went 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA, a .85 WHIP, and ten strikeouts in thirteen innings. He was only one of six players to win multiple games and the only player to win three games. In case you have not figured it out yet, he's good.
On the negative side of things, he has missed a lot of games due to arm troubles. At one point he threw 250 pitches in 17 innings against a team in the quarter finals of the 1998 summer high school championships. Baseball Prospectus had pointed out that Daisuke threw 149 pitches in 2004 and him throwing 140+ pitches is not exactly a rare occurrence. He has topped ten complete games in each of his last three seasons and in 2006, he topped 130 pitches eight times including two 140+ pitch games. That was before he added a 137 pitch performance in the playoffs on October 7th in which he struck out thirteen in a complete game shut-out. His arm may be a bit of concern in terms of mileage, but the fact is that he has only topped 200 innings twice in his career and still has age on his side. Getting him to the majors where he would be on a shorter leash will probably extend his career and you can be sure he will get used a bit differently in the states.
So, who will get him? You can be sure that he will have plenty of suitors despite the fact that Scott Boras is his agent. The Mets will give a look, the Yankees will be all over him like stink on a Cardinals fan, the Dodgers are always interested in Japanese players, and there will be more. Per season, he will undoubtedly cost less than Zito, but it will cost a pretty penny to get that privilege to sign him. The battle for his services will be with the heavy weights only and throwing his name into the ring just ups the Mets chances for getting that ace they sorely need in the off-season. Him coming to the states is good for the Mets whether they sign him or not.
Seriously, I cannot tell you how big a smile this brought to my face. It never...ever...every gets old.
"Hopefully we don't," Mets slugger Carlos Delgado said. "He can lead the series in walks, that's not a problem."
"So much of it depends on the game," said Game 1 starter Tom Glavine, who has given up nine hits, but no home runs in 20 at-bats to Pujols. "Albert is a great hitter and the guy we're obviously going to identify in their lineup as trying not to allow him to beat us. But what's the saying? The best-laid plans go awry sometimes."
During the season? Go after him. In the post-season? All bets are off. The Mets have a secret weapon they can use on Pujols in big spots though.
Coaches Manny Acta and Jerry Manuel are expected to draw interest from the Giants and Nationals regarding their managerial vacancies, while Acta also figures to be a candidate with the Rangers. Those teams have sent back-channel signals of their interest to the Mets, but haven't formally asked for interviews, according to team insiders.
"He had a nice little workout, swung the bat well in BP, and we're going to just wait until [today] to decide when he comes in," Willie Randolph said, adding, "I'm optimistic it will work out fine. We have time to wait, see how he feels when he gets up [this] morning."
Cliffy is not quite as optimistic as Willie, but he can sometimes get a bit frustrated with his never ending barage of injuries.