Archive for June 3rd, 2011

(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

Now that Daisuke Matsuzaka’s decision to have Tommy John surgery has essentially closed the book on his Red Sox career, we can finally examine whether the signing was worthwhile. In addition, the same analysis can be used to settle another rivalry-based question: who was the better (or less disastrous) acquisition, Matsuzaka or Kei Igawa?

As a member of the Seibu Lions, Matsuzaka piqued the interest of baseball general managers.

It’s an absurd question, right? After all, Matsuzaka has been an above average pitcher over his major league career (although his last two-plus seasons have been well below average), while Kei Igawa has been a denizen of Scranton. However, after a closer look, the answer doesn’t seem so obvious.

When the Red Sox paid over $51 million for the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka, it was not only an unprecedented price for a posted Japanese player, but also $13 million more than the next highest bid, which was made by the New York Mets. Although the Red Sox offer was high, expectations for Matsuzaka were even greater, with many experts predicting he was a lock to become an ace starter. Obviously, by committing over $100 million to the Japanese righty, the Red Sox expected just as much.

Although several teams made an offer, the bidding for Kei Igawa wasn’t as intense as it was for Matsuzaka. The Yankees’ top bid of $26 million easily out distanced the Mets, who once again finished second in the process (considering that team’s current fiscal troubles, it’s a good thing they came up short both times). Unlike Boston, however, the Yankees had very low expectations for the money spent. In fact, Brian Cashman went out of his way to temper the signing by first referring to Igawa as a back of the rotation starter and then later as a potential middle reliever. In other words, something other than performance-based expectations seemed to be behind the acquisition.

Matsuzaka’s a front-end of the rotation type of starter. I think we’ve been very honest in saying that we’re looking at Kei to help us solidify the back of the rotation. They’re dissimilar pitchers; we don’t want to confuse our fan base. But we think he can be a successful pitcher here in the major leagues.” – Brian Cashman, quoted by the New York Times, January 9, 2007

Whatever the motivation, Igawa proved to be a bust off the bat, and after 12 mostly disastrous starts in 2007, he was banished to the minor leagues. Meanwhile, after a slow start, Dice-K began to show signs of his promised dominance by going 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 2008. Although many were skeptical of his peripherals and lack of innings, heading into the 2009 season, it looked as if Matsuzaka would at least come close to providing value that was comparable to his cost.


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