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Red Sox and pitcher apart as deadline looms

12/13/2006 - MLB Boston Red Sox

BOSTON -- Trying to close financial gaps across a negotiating table has been far more tedious for Red Sox officials than the cross-country flight they took in hopes of signing Daisuke Matsuzaka.

With a deadline of midnight ET on Thursday for reaching an agreement with the Japanese pitching star, there were no indications that progress was made with agent Scott Boras during talks Tuesday at his office in Newport Beach, Calif., some 45 miles south of Los Angeles.


The sides apparently are $3 million-per-year apart. Sources have told the Boston Herald that the Red Sox's latest offer to the pitcher is six years for $8 million a year. Matsuzaka's camp, according to the Herald, has counter-offered with an $11 million request for six years.

As Boston general manager Theo Epstein left Boras' office late Tuesday night, he said it's "up to Matsuzaka" whether there would be further talks.

Soon after, Boras also left and told reporters, "I'll have something for you maybe later in the day."

Epstein and Red Sox president Larry Lucchino showed up
unannounced in California on Monday for face-to-face talks with
Boras. They had flown from Boston on principal owner John Henry's
airplane and hoped Matsuzaka would be with them for the return trip
to Boston on Wednesday.

Epstein set his own deadline of Wednesday morning to allow time
for Matsuzaka to have a physical in Boston before a contract is
finalized. But Boras didn't want Matsuzaka to board the plane
before an agreement was reached.

The agent represents some of baseball's highest-paid players,
including Alex Rodriguez. He also negotiated a deal with the Red
Sox this month that could bring outfielder J.D. Drew $70 million
over the next five seasons. And he represented Johnny Damon when
the outfielder agreed to a $52 million, four-year deal to leave
Boston for the New York Yankees after the 2005 season.

Boras is known for long negotiations and there is still more
than a day before the deadline. But the Red Sox, having bid $51.11
million for exclusive negotiating rights to Matsuzaka, feel that
amount should be taken into consideration in any contract. Boras
sees the two deals as separate and feels Matsuzaka, 26, should be
paid at the level of some of baseball's best compensated pitchers.

During Tuesday's talks, the Red Sox group included Epstein,
Lucchino and chairman Tom Werner. Henry was home in Boca Raton,
Fla., where he was kept apprised of the discussions.

The club officials left the building where Boras' offices are
located shortly before 7 p.m. ET, returned about four hours later
and stayed for 40 minutes before leaving again.

"We're going back to Boston" on Wednesday, Werner said.

Until flying to California, negotiations were conducted by
telephone and other means without the parties being together.

Boras has said the decision whether Matsuzaka will join the Red
Sox or return to Japan will be made by his client, who was MVP of
the inaugural World Baseball Classic in March.

"Free agent pitchers who are 26 and have Matsuzaka-like ability
receive salaries in excess of $100 million over five or six years
in free agency," Boras said at a news conference Monday night.

Matsuzaka has a 108-60 career record in Japan with a 2.95 ERA
and 1,355 strikeouts in 204 games.

Epstein agreed Matsuzaka is worth $100 million, but his
calculations include the posting fee.

"That magnitude is certainly the right ballpark for the
commitment of the ballclub," Epstein said

The $51.11 million bid by the Red Sox goes to the Seibu Lions,
Matsuzaka's team in Japan, if a deal is struck, If not, Boston
doesn't have to pay the money and Matsuzaka would remain the
property of the Lions and could not go through the posting system
again until next November.

Under Japanese baseball rules, he couldn't become a free agent
until after the 2008 season.

Late Monday, Henry sounded miffed about Boras' approach.

"We're on Scott Boras' doorstep because he hasn't negotiated
with us thus far and we're taking the fight directly to him, the
fight to have a negotiation here," he said during a conference call.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.