Matsuzaka ‘relieved’ Seibu OKs his request

Kyodo News

Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka said Wednesday he feels relief at the prospect of being allowed to pursue his childhood dream of playing in the major leagues.

News photo Seibu Lions pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka speaks at a news conference held in a Tokyo hotel on Wednesday to
officially announce his hopes of playing in the major leagues next season.

Seibu accepted Matsuzaka’s request to become available for bids from major-league teams after the hard-throwing 26-year-old spent eight years as the No. 1 starter for the Lions.

“I feel relieved. Even if it’s only one year, I wanted to do this as soon as possible,” said Matsuzaka, who would have had to wait at least two more years to become eligible for free agency without the club’s approval to use the so-called posting system.

“Since I was a child I’ve thought about standing on this stage and now I’m within arm’s reach.”

The latest decision by the Pacific League club set up the opportunity for Matsuzaka to follow in the footsteps of Ichiro Suzuki and Akinori Otsuka, who have achieved success in the major leagues via the same system.

Seibu active owner Hidekazu Ota said the team wanted to help Matsuzaka fulfill his dream.

“Matsuzaka is a treasure of Japanese baseball. We want to help realize his dream,” Ota said.

About a dozen major-league teams, including the New York Yankees, are reportedly interested in signing Matsuzaka. With his proven track record, the focus now shifts to who will win the rights to sit at the negotiating table. It is believed the highest bid for Matsuzaka could be over $30 million.

According to an article from ESPN’s Web site, the total price tag for Matsuzaka, including the winning bid and multiyear contract could reach $75 million (about 8.775 billion yen).

The article also said that Matsuzaka’s agent, Scott Boras, “views Matsuzaka as a No. 1 starter” and will try to negotiate an annual salary of at least $10 million (1.17 billion yen), adding that one general manager, who asked to remain anonymous, said the bidding is “going to get ugly.”

After Seibu rejected his demand for an opportunity to sign up with a major league team after the 2005 season, Matsuzaka was eager to prove his worth and picked up a career-high 17 wins against five losses in 25 starts this year.

Matsuzaka also posted impressive marks of a 2.13 earned run average and 200 strikeouts in 186 1/3 innings and finished the season second to Softbank Hawks right-hander Kazumi Saito in these three major pitching categories.

In March, Matsuzaka helped lead Japan’s successful campaign in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in front of major-league scouts and was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

A first-round draft pick in the 1998 amateur draft, Matsuzaka has led the league in wins three times and in strikeouts four times while winning the ERA title twice and the Sawamura Award, the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young Award, once.

He has a 108-60 career record with a 2.95 ERA and 1,355 strikeouts in 204 games and 1,402 2/3 innings.

Under the posting system, major league teams submit bids for the rights to negotiate a deal with non-free agent Japanese players.

Along with the big-money Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets are also reportedly among the big-name teams interested in acquiring the services of Matsuzaka.