Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Cranking Up the Hot Stove

Getting back to hardball for at least one post (maybe more), the big news of the week so far revolves around Japanese phenom pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. The 26-year old gyroballer has officially been put on the market by his team, the Seibu Lions, who invited MLB teams to submit bids for the rights to negotiate with the righty. The usual suspects were in on the hunt (Yankees, Red Sox and Mets), and it's also believed that the forever pitching-deprived Rangers took part. ESPN's Buster Olney broke the news late last week that the Red Sox had submitted the highest bid, and that has since been backed up by several other media reports, including from Peter Gammons, who indicated that the Sox had submitted a mind-boggling number of $42 million. Again, this is just for the right to sit across the table from Scott Boras and try to hammer out a deal. If no deal gets done, the Lions don't get paid.

Matsuzaka's stock rose big-time in the World Baseball Classic, during which he and his gyroball/sinker were positively unhittable, and the Sox had been keeping a close eye on him well beforehand. Some have speculated that the Red Sox are merely trying to keep the pitcher out of pinstripes, but MLB.com's Ian Browne begs to differ, and I tend to agree. The deal makes a mountain of sense for Boston. We need pitching help, and the free agent market is thin. Jason Schmidt is made out of papier mache, and Barry Zito is incredibly overrated and probably headed to the weak-sister National League anyway to pad his stats. The move also makes a ton of sense from a marketing/revenue standpoint. We'll get official word tonight on who the highest bidder is, and then let the fun begin.

Of course, Theo is doing his best Bill Belichick imitation down at the GM meetings in Naples, Fla. (That's him to the right in the picture, getting ready for the GM's bowling tournament. Two thoughts here. 1) Bowling?? And 2) Theo has certainly come a long way fashion-wise since a year ago. From gorilla suit to Tommy Bahama.) Word in the Boston papers is that Theo is going hard after J.D. Drew (just look at his OBP and you'll see why) and others are reporting that he's made offers to at least two free agent pitchers, one of whom I hope is Ted Lilly. The Sox desperately need at least one southpaw in the rotation, assuming Jon Lester - who's battling lymphoma - isn't ready to go.

Other news and notes:

- Justin Verlander and Hanley Ramirez took home the AL and NL Rookie of the Year Awards, respectively. Verlander would have been pushed more by our boy Papelbon if he didn't get hurt at the end of the season, and I'm just not ready to discuss former Sox property Ramirez. All I can say is that we're still looking for a shortstop.

- Rumors are swirling that the Phillies will be big players for Alfonso Soriano, who will demand mega-bucks, and that the Yankees may look to fill their 1B hole with Nomar Garciaparra.

- The Yanks have already made a couple of moves, sending disgruntled OF Gary Sheffield to the Tigers for three prospects, and Jaret Wright to the Orioles for a box of baseballs.

- Best pre-meeting move? The Indians getting 2B Josh Barfield from the Padres. Mark my words - the son of Red Sox killer Jessee is going to be a damn good one.

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