Matsuzaka, Boston reach preliminary pact

By JIMMY GOLEN, AP Sports Writer 10 minutes ago

BOSTON - Japanese ace Daisuke Matsuzaka is in Boston, and it looks like he'll be staying a while.

The Red Sox reached a preliminary agreement with the 26-year-old right-hander on a six-year contract that would guarantee him a minimum of $52 million — enough to get him to fly cross-country well before Thursday night's deadline to seal the deal.

"Theo and I were still negotiating terms when we arrived," agent Scott Boras said after a long day of talks with Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "We finalized the deal when he arrived in Boston."

The Red Sox planned a 5 p.m. news conference Thursday to announce the agreement, a person familiar with the talks said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Red Sox owner Henry declined comment late Wednesday night.

"Tomorrow at Fenway," he said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Matsuzaka gets a $2 million signing bonus, $6 million next year, $8 million in each of the following three seasons and $10 million in each of the final two years. The agreement includes $8 million in escalators based on awards that could bring the total to $60 million over six years.

Boras said the final negotiating session began at about 5:30 a.m. in California on Wednesday, and within 90 minutes he was confident there would be an agreement.

"Daisuke really had three choices," Boras said. "He could sign now. He could wait another year or he could wait two years and become a free agent. He had to determine how much money he was willing to give up now."

The Red Sox won the bidding for Matsuzaka's rights last month, promising to pay Seibu $51.11 million if it let him leave for the major leagues. But they had just 30 days — until midnight EST Thursday — to negotiate a contract with Boras or the right-hander would return to Japan and Boston would keep its money.

When talks stalled, the Red Sox brass flew uninvited to Boras' turf in Southern California on Monday to meet with him in person. They said they had to leave Wednesday morning, with or without an agreement; Boras had said he would not let his client make the cross-country trip unless the sides have the makings of a deal.

In the end, Matsuzaka got on board Henry's plane at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Calif., and Boston radio stations and Web sites tracked its path as religiously as they had been counting down the minutes to the deadline. After a 4-hour, 43-minute flight, the Dassault Mystere 900 tri-jet with a Red Sox logo on the tail landed in a light rain at Hanscom Field in Bedford at 5:16 p.m.

Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, president Larry Lucchino and Epstein disembarked with Matsuzaka and Boras. Matsuzaka exchanged handshakes and bows with members of the Red Sox welcoming party before getting into an SUV.

There were several dozen fans to greet him and about the same number of reporters, many of them Japanese. A radio station distributed signs that pictured two dice and a "K"; Matsuzaka's first name is pronounced "Dice-K."

As he left the airport for Mass General, Matsuzaka rolled down his window and appeared surprised by the gathering. He waved and smiled when he stopped briefly alongside Kim Miner and Rebecca Powell, 17-year-olds from nearby Concord who were holding a sign that said, "WELCOME HOME DAISUKE."

"I was so psyched," Miner said. "Because there was a small crowd, we got to see him close."

Matsuzaka has a 108-60 record in Japan with a 2.95 ERA and 1,355 strikeouts in 204 games. He was MVP of the inaugural World Baseball Classic last March, won by Japan.

Negotiations had slowed because the Red Sox looked at the posting fee and the eventual contract as a $103 million payout for one pitcher. "That magnitude is certainly the right ballpark for the commitment of the ballclub," Epstein had said.

Boras focused just on the money going to his client, saying: "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."

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday that he was "so impressed" by Matsuzaka after reports of the six-year, $52 million deal.

"(Matsuzaka) is Japan's best pitcher, and his ability was fully evaluated," he said.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061214/...x_matsuzaka_40
Will the Red Sox be able to overtake the Yankees now? I don't think this will be enough to put them over the top.