One of the biggest pitching prospects next season somehow isn't Barry Zito or Jason Schmidt. It's 26-year-old Japanese player Daisuke Matsuzaka, who plays for the Seibu Lions. He was also the MVP of the World Baseball Classic. I'm sure you didn't know that because America was already knocked out and, honestly, who in America watched the WBC.
Teams will have to go through some lengthy procedures to sign Matsuzaka. Since he's still under contract with the Lions, Major League teams interested will have to make a private bid to even have the right to talk to him. Speculation is that the bids could be up to or above $20M. No Major League team will know what other teams are bidding so it'll keep the stakes high. The highest bidder will have 30 days to try to work out an agreement -- only one team will be able to negotiate with him. If they don't reach an agreement, Matsuzaka goes back to Japan and we won't hear about him again until 2008 when he becomes a free agent.
There are a slew of teams interested, which of course will drive the bidding prices even higher. Those teams include the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, Orioles, and Mariners. That's just to name a few. As a Mets fan, I'm weary about any more foreign imports. Kaz Matsui didn't really pan out, unless you call wasting Jose Reyes for a year at second base and mediocre numbers from Kaz, at best, panning out. Mets fans may have already blocked Kaz Ishii out of their memory, and as well they should. Man, did he suck.
Japanese pitchers are often a risk because they don't pitch as much as major leaguers do. Instead of once every five days, it's closer to once a week. The change from one to another could easily lead to a midseason breakdown. You could also make the argument that Japan plays a lot more small-ball and they don't have to face the type of sluggers found in the MLB. While that may be true, remember that it was Japan's small-ball that won the World Baseball Classic.
Most major league teams interested will go hard at this relatively unknown prospect. With the bid and contract, they could end up spending up to $75M on the guy. That's a lot for someone who may not fit into American baseball. As a Mets fan, I hope that GM Omar Minaya and owner Fred Wilpon proceed cautiously. If the Yankees want to blow all their money on him, let them. It's a huge risk. Who knows? Maybe they'll get a huge reward in return. But it's just as possible that a Major League team could have a $75M bust on their hands. If that's the case, maybe they can train him to eat some hot dogs. Kobayashi needs a challenge already.