Japan pitcher catches O's eye

The Baltimore Sun

The high-stakes bidding for Japanese pitching star Daisuke Matsuzaka could begin as early as today, though the Orioles still haven't decided whether to be a part of it.

The Orioles have gotten great reports on Matsuzaka and are interested in the 26-year-old right-hander, who was 17-5 with a 2.13 ERA for the Seibu Lions this past season and was the Most Valuable Player of the inaugural World Baseball Classic.

However, the pitcher's price tag - the cost to earn just the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka could be more than $30 million - has certainly made the Orioles' decision whether to get involved in the process a difficult one.

"We are considering putting in a bid," said executive vice president Mike Flanagan, declining to offer any more details.

The Orioles likely will have a few days to make a decision, though even if they bid for Matsuzaka, they are an extreme long shot to land him. It is expected that Matsuzaka's total cost, with the negotiating-rights price and then his multi-year deal, could be more than $70 million.

At this point, the Orioles have said they don't plan to spend that kind of money this offseason on a pitcher, preferring to put it toward the acquisition of an impact bat, such as the Washington Nationals' Alfonso Soriano or Texas Rangers' Carlos Lee.

Instead, club officials are hoping to add a No. 3 or No. 4 starter, such as the St. Louis Cardinals' Jeff Suppan, Toronto Blue Jays' Ted Lilly or Seattle Mariners' Gil Meche. They are not expected to show heavy interest in the Oakland Athletics' Barry Zito or San Francisco Giants' Jason Schmidt, regarded as the top two pitchers on the free-agent market.

The bidding process on Matsuzaka will begin when Major League Baseball is notified that the pitcher is being "posted," which appears imminent. Major league teams - nearly a dozen could make bids, including the New York Yankees - will then have four days to submit a bid to the commissioner's office to gain negotiating rights.

The highest bid will then be presented to the Seibu Lions, who will have four days to accept or reject it. If the bid is accepted, the winning team will have 30 days to come to terms with Matsuzaka, who has hired agent Scott Boras.


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