Cornering the Market

Word across the ocean this evening is that the Red Sox have indeed made an offer to 22-year-old Japanese pitching sensation Junichi Tazawa, the player who forewent the NPB draft and has created something of an international baseball crisis for what his actions portend.

The Sox have never been ones to particularly avoid contention with Japanese baseball if they see a player they want (hello, Kevin Millar), so this comes as no surprise. The Braves and Sox are the only teams so far reported to have made offers to Tazawa, who projects as probably a AA pitcher right now. 

I'm not sure how things are done over there, but this struck me as strange:

Sanspo is reporting that Red Sox VP for international scouting Craig Shipley spent 1 hour 50 minutes negotiating witJunichi Tawaza, resulting in a $6M contract offer.

Negotiations before making an offer? That would sound positive for Boston, who has long been the favorite for landing Tazawa anyway.
25 comments… add one
  • I think that the MLB and NPB need to work out some sort of agreement to address the multiple ways in which the leagues interact when it comes to players. While the Sox and Braves arent doing anything wrong per se, all teams need to be operating under the same understanding of the rules.

    Sam-YF November 23, 2008, 9:32 pm
  • I’m trying to be ornery, Sam, but what rules are those?

    I'mBillMcNeal November 23, 2008, 10:03 pm
  • I would suggest this: I think that as MLB players come from so many different countries and there are so many different ways to sign international players, there should be an international governing body, similar to the International Ice Hockey Federation, to help establish a consistent set of rules.
    And that might be a long-winded way of saying what you were saying, Sam.

    I'mBillMcNeal November 23, 2008, 10:05 pm
  • Going back to my first post, should read, “I’m NOT trying to be ornery …”

    I'mBillMcNeal November 23, 2008, 10:06 pm
  • Bill thats exactly my point. There are no set rules and there need to be so all teams play under the same set of guidelines.

    Sam-YF November 23, 2008, 10:16 pm
  • I figured as much, Sam. I would agree. Those rules need to apply to all players not part of the draft. (And I believe the FA draft is just US players, correct?)
    But here’s a question: Should there be different rules for different countries? One set of rules for cubans, for example, but different for players from the DR?

    I'mBillMcNeal November 23, 2008, 11:09 pm
  • The draft is indeed just for the US players (maybe canadian too?). I think there needs to be an international draft, as much as it would remove an advantage the yankees and sox have right now through the use of their financial muscle. I cant imagine there being different rules for each country. Although those with their own professional leagues (like Japan) may require their own special regulations.

    Sam-YF November 23, 2008, 11:15 pm
  • It is very difficult for me to understand the continuance of the concept of baseball players as “property”.

    attackgerbil November 24, 2008, 12:18 am
  • More reports coming in, apparently the offer is 3 years for 3 million. Nikkan Spots says that Tazawa has already chosen the Red Sox, and will be able to officially sign at the beginning of December.

    Atheose November 24, 2008, 7:43 am
  • How good is Tazawa? Most of the media reports I’ve read say that he throws in the mid-90s and would be the equivalent of a first round pick.
    But then there is this article from Jim Allen:
    At 22, Tazawa is unlikely to throw much harder than he does now; his fastball barely tops 90 mph when he is rested, and he struggled to hit 88 mph at the end of last season.
    In Class A or Double-A, Tazawa likely will get hit harder and harder as the season wears on.
    Because he knows what he’s doing against corporate league hitters here, there is a chance Tazawa will make adjustments, although Ojimi is a skeptic.
    The Mets scout believes the pitcher’s body is too stiff to allow him to keep the ball down in the zone and Tazawa lacks the smarts and toughness to hang in and learn the lessons needed to apply his talent in the majors.
    Although Tazawa probably will not pitch at the major league level for the next few seasons, at least he will take the plunge.
    A fastball that barely tops 90 mph vs. a mid-90s heater? That’s quite a discrepancy in scouting reports.
    I suppose the Sox do know what they are doing though.

    SoxFan November 24, 2008, 8:18 am
  • The rules are actually clear. The problem is the “unwritten rules” and when these are trumped by business interests. The Red Sox would be violating no rules in signing Tazawa, were they doing such they probably wouldn’t be signing him.
    This sounds a bit Machiavellian, but the fact is that there is nothing other than the adherence to an outdated gentleman’s agreement that is in question or dispute. Considering the level of competition and money at stake it should be of no surprise to anyone that mulitple teams are willing to look past what now seem like obsolete remnants of different times.
    As for the scouting, it sure is all over the place. At worst this move gives the Sox some organizational depth. If Tazawa signs and does well or the Sox have confidence that he can be a viable prospect in the minors he frees someone else to be moved for a need. At best he becomes a major leaguer. I lean towards expecting the former as a best case scenario. If Tazawa were that good he’d have had more interest from teams currently hewing to the “Gentleman’s Agreement”.
    Though I wonder if the Sox have any unsigned FAs that this money could have been better allotted to, should this report end up being true?

    SF November 24, 2008, 9:19 am
  • I think SFs analysis is spot on. I believe that MLB should work an agreement out with NPB should work out a new written agreement to avoid conflicts between the two leagues. Sure the Sox and Braves arent doing anything wrong but that is not how its perceived in Japan. Given MLB’s desire to become a global game, keeping foreign countries happy is a priority and this is no way to do this.

    Sam-YF November 24, 2008, 9:50 am
  • Everything I’ve read indicates Jim Allen is simply wrong. There’s YouTube footage from this season showing him hitting 93 with his fastball.
    He’s basically got the talent of a first-round draft pick with success at what amounts to high-A or AA ball right now. It appears from what I’ve read that he’d likely start at AA with no real shot at the majors until maybe the end of 2010. This is a move for the future, to replenish the higher levels of the farm system, not for 2009.
    Still a nice move — particularly because if the $3 million figure is accurate, that means he agreed to come to Boston for half the money he was reported to have been offered by Atlanta. That’s a terrific sign for the inroads the Sox have made in Japan and the influence the Matsuzaka signing has beyond simply affecting the Red Sox’ on-field product.

    Paul SF November 24, 2008, 9:52 am
  • Also, I doubt $3 million (or the $1 million the Sox would be allocating in 2009) is going to limit the Red Sox’ free agency plans in any significant way. That’s just not a terribly large sum of money when the luxury cap is $160m.

    Paul SF November 24, 2008, 9:54 am
  • If Tazawa were that good he’d have had more interest from teams currently hewing to the “Gentleman’s Agreement”.
    You mean like a certain team in New York?

    SoxFan November 24, 2008, 10:39 am
  • After all, that’s how the “posting system” came up with their talents, though now it extends to an amateur level.
    I’m not sure how I feel about this, per se, but ah well.

    Lar November 24, 2008, 11:10 am
  • The posting system is the most broken part of the relationship between the two leagues. It so completely favors about 4-5 MLB teams. As a yankee fan im not complaining but as a fan of baseball, it really doesnt work well to serve the league’s best interests.

    Sam-YF November 24, 2008, 11:32 am
  • Probably not, but it’s a “resolution” of a system which also previously favored the 4-5 teams anyhow. So in that sense, at least it did something..

    Lar November 24, 2008, 1:30 pm
  • No outrage at all? If the foot was in the other shoe..

    Lar November 24, 2008, 8:47 pm
  • Unwritten rules.
    They’re not worth the paper they’re not written on.
    In this age of hypercompetitiveness, we can’t expect anyone to honor so-called unwritten rules.

    I'mBillMcNeal November 24, 2008, 10:42 pm
  • “A fastball that barely tops 90 mph vs. a mid-90s heater? That’s quite a discrepancy in scouting reports.”
    Sounds like Phil Hughes.

    I'mBillMcNeal November 24, 2008, 11:00 pm
  • Sorry. That sounds like a dig.

    I'mBillMcNeal November 24, 2008, 11:00 pm
  • “Everything I’ve read indicates Jim Allen is simply wrong. There’s YouTube footage from this season showing him hitting 93 with his fastball.”
    Footage of a pitcher throwing 93 a couple of times is indicative of basically nothing. He could max out at this speed but not be able to throw it consistently during a start. Maintaining a speed like this over a full start is much more important. I dont think its fair to simply write this guy off simply because it disagrees with other things you have read. Further, 93 mph isnt all that unless he can do something else very well. Afterall, Kei Igawa was said to max out at 92-93 himself. If we have learned anything about Japanese pitchers, its that scouting has been very unreliable and that success over there doesnt necessarily correlate with success on this side of the pacific.

    Sam-YF November 24, 2008, 11:38 pm
  • On the flip side, it’s all upside – cash is cash, but I imagine it’s just pocket change.
    I apologize for the baiting a bit – but you know, we didn’t come up with stuff like the “Evil Empire” just to say “it’s just being competitive!” when someone else does it..

    Lar November 25, 2008, 9:28 am
  • “Evil Empire” arose from a completely unrelated situation and has really lost its luster since 2004. I guess it still rankles some a bit.
    Apparently Tazawa’s breaking stuff is very good (Clay Buchholz good, as much as comparisons to that pitcher might want to be avoided right now), which would give that fastball some more oomph. There’s also thought his jerky delivery could be smoothed, adding a mph or 2 to his fastball. Who knows? I canm only tell you what I’ve read.

    Paul SF November 25, 2008, 10:24 am

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