Pitching-depleted M's won't chase Japan's Matsuzaka
There won't be many chances for the Mariners to exhale this winter. Not with all those holes to fill in a starting rotation destined to...
Seattle Times staff reporter
There won't be many chances for the Mariners to exhale this winter. Not with all those holes to fill in a starting rotation destined to undergo a significant overhaul in the weeks and months ahead.
That's why general manager Bill Bavasi and his baseball operations crew will take advantage of any opportunity to stop holding their breath, no matter how fleeting the moment may be. And that exhaling sound in the vicinity of Edgar Martinez Drive on Wednesday was a collective sigh of relief that team owner Hiroshi Yamauchi has decided against bidding for Japanese starter Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Seibu Lions.
"The decision has been made," Bavasi said. "We will not be participating in the bidding process."
Matsuzaka could be posted — made available — by the Lions to major-league bidders as early as today. That the Mariners won't be one of the bidding clubs rates as a surprise in an industry where they've long been regarded as serious players for top Japanese talent.
Segments of Seattle's fan base will also likely grow antsier than ever at the news their team won't even try to land a 26-year-old touted as a potential staff ace. But the team's baseball strategists spent the past month fine-tuning their offseason plans and let it be known internally Matsuzaka was a no-go.
All that remained was to see whether Yamauchi, who has been known to go his own way, would step in and overrule his U.S.-based decision-makers. Word that Yamauchi had made his decision began surfacing in Japanese newspapers Wednesday and Bavasi later confirmed it.
"Mr. Yamauchi decided we wouldn't be bidding and it's a decision that our baseball operations department concurs with," Bavasi said.
The Mariners never openly discuss their reasoning behind such decisions, though they'll have to negotiate a long-term deal with Ichiro over the next year, and funds are not limitless. And in a thin pitching market fraught with uncertainty, the desire to spend any extra millions on a more proven mound commodity was undoubtedly high.
Bidding on Matsuzaka, named MVP of the inaugural World Baseball Classic, is expected to reach $20 million to $30 million. That's before any discussions on a contract, which could be at least $10 million annually on a multiyear deal.
There are other free agents, like Barry Zito of the Oakland Athletics and Jason Schmidt of the San Francisco Giants, who could be had for less money. Zito went 16-10 with a 3.83 earned-run average last season, shedding at least some talk his best years are behind him.
That's not as fancy as the 17-5 record and 2.13 ERA that Matsuzaka posted with the Lions. But until he does it in a major-league uniform, there will always be skeptics.
Bavasi reiterated that the rotation is his major concern, even though relief pitcher Mark Lowe now appears unlikely to return from minor elbow surgery quickly enough to begin the season.
"We certainly aren't counting on it," Bavasi said of Lowe being ready.
The plan is to plug any Lowe vacancy from within. That leaves the rotation to benefit from any forays into a lean pitching market that — for the Mariners at least — is now one starter thinner than it already was.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or email@example.com
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