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Red Sox: Offer to Matsuzaka 'fair, comprehensive'

11/28/2006 - Boston Red Sox

BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox cannot reduce their $51.1
million bid for Daisuke Matsuzaka in order to sign him, even if his
Japanese team agrees to take less, baseball officials said Tuesday.

"There are no side deals in the situation," said Jimmie Lee
Solomon, executive vice president of baseball operations in the
commissioner's office. "Everybody's been assured that's not
allowed, and everybody's been made aware of the rules."

A Red Sox official said the team is not trying to reduce the
bid, called a posting fee, which was by far the highest in baseball
history. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because
the team is not commenting publicly on the negotiations.

Solomon said the posting process was clear to all teams before
it started. There has been no complaint about Boston's handling of
the matter, and no reason to believe the Red Sox are not following
the rules, he said.

"There were some reports that we heard, but those reports
proved to be not true," he said.

Boston bid $51.1 million for the right to negotiate with
Matsuzaka, the MVP of the World Baseball Classic in March. The team
has until the end of Dec. 14 to sign him or he would return to the
Seibu Lions for another season before he could be posted again.

If so, the Red Sox would keep their money. Reports from Japan,
where Red Sox president Larry Lucchino went to negotiate a
long-term "working relationship" with Seibu, centered on the
possibility that the Lions would pitch in for Matsuzaka's contract
to make the deal happen.

"That would not be allowed," Solomon said. "The deal is that
the Red Sox are to pay the Lions the posting fee. They are to
negotiate [Matsuzaka's contract] free from any other negotiations
that might be going on."

Lucchino said in Japan that the Red Sox have sent a fair and
comprehensive offer to Matsuzaka's agent, Scott Boras, as a
follow-up to the record-setting bid.

"[It's] obviously a historical number but we are talking about
a national living treasure and an exceptional baseball player,"
Lucchino said. "We know it's been his dream to play in the major
leagues and we are proud that he will live out his dream in Boston
with the Boston Red Sox."

Meanwhile, the Red Sox are in negotiations to sign another Japanese pitcher.

Hideki Okajima is in serious discussions with the Red Sox about a two-year deal, ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney reports. The 30-year-old left-handed reliever, who was 2-2 with a 2.14 ERA and four saves last season for the Nippon Ham Fighters, is a free agent.

Boras declined to comment on the Matsuzaka negotiations. But the agent was
slightly more forthcoming on talks about free-agent outfielder
J.D. Drew, whom the Red Sox have also expressed an interest in.

"We'll probably have a decision on J.D. during the winter
meetings" that start Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., he said.

Signing Drew would give the Red Sox an opportunity to complete
the long-attempted trade of productive but enigmatic outfielder
Manny Ramirez. Although general manager Theo Epstein has tried each
year to unload the slugger, it would be easier now that there are
just two years and about $36 million left on the $160 million,
eight-year contract he signed with previous GM Dan Duquette.

Ramirez's deal also has two team option years at $20 million
apiece, and he might ask teams to exercise the options in order for
him to waive his no-trade rights. Even at four years and $76
million, Ramirez's money is not that much more than Alfonso Soriano
will average in the eight-year, $136 million deal he just agreed to
with the Chicago Cubs.

Soriano had 46 homers, 41 stolen bases and 41 doubles last
season with Washington, while batting .277 with 95 RBI. Ramirez
has averaged 40 homers and 127 RBI over the past nine years, and
his deal is no longer as out of line as it was during the more
restrained markets since he agreed to it in 2000.

The upswing could make Ramirez's contract -- and his quirky
personality -- more palatable for teams such as the Los Angeles
Dodgers, Angels, Seattle, Texas, Cleveland, San Francisco, San
Diego and Arizona.

The only free agent who offers a similar potential for
production is Barry Bonds, who comes with injury, cost and
personality issues at least as pronounced as Ramirez.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.