Red Sox: Offer to Matsuzaka 'fair, comprehensive'

Updated: November 28, 2006, 10:58 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

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.

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"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.

Matsuzaka's Career With Seibu
  W-L ERA SO IP
2006 17-5 2.13 200 186.3
2005 14-13 2.30 226 215.0
2004 10-6 2.90 127 146.0
2003 16-7 2.83 215 194.0
2002 6-2 3.68 78 73.3
2001 15-14 3.60 214 240.3
2000 14-7 3.97 144 167.6
1999 16-5 2.60 151 180.0

"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.