Thursday, December 07, 2006

BOSOX UPDATE: Trilateral Negotiation Has Higher Difficulty Rating  

The premise I wrote about Joe Sheehan over at Baseball Prospectus taking -- that the Boston Red Sox were decommissioning the normal player-agent negotiation pattern in the Daisuke Matsuzaka signing effort by pitting the pitcher's agent and the pitcher's Japan Pacific League team (Seibu Lions) against each other to shrink the cost of the deal -- got a probably confirmation today in the Gordon Eads story for the Boston Globe.

Matsuzaka's agent is Scott Boras, and Boras is a master of negotiation, especially in (1) understanding that getting more for the current client increases the market value of clients (and the value of his fixed percentage on contracts), (2) that not making a deal today may result in a higher total return later, and (3) that bringing negotiations to a close when they can't be taken up again for a long time, an apparently suicidal tactic, establishes your determination/zealotry/Kissinger-style-maniac and therefore makes potential antagonists understand how dangerous you are and ergo why they should submit to you.

So it shouldn't be a surprise that Boras is not folding, but apparently playing this hand he was dealt by arguing to bring the negotiation to a close without the Red Sox signing the pitcher, his argument being the pitcher can go back to Japan and play for the Lions for two years and get a much bigger payday playing the in U.S. then. But Eads points out another vector in the negotiations: Japanese fans.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With a week to go before the clock strikes midnight on the Red Sox' quest to sign Daisuke Matsuzaka, perhaps it should not surprise anyone that the Sox are feeling their chances of landing Dice-K are more than a bit dicey.

While general manager Theo Epstein maintains his posture of no public discourse on the state of negotiations, there is increasing anxiety on Yawkey Way that Matsuzaka's agent, Scott Boras, is posing an unreasonable, and immovable, obstacle to their bid to add Matsuzaka to their pitching staff.

According to sources with direct access to the Sox' view, there is an increasing feeling that Boras is setting the stage, both privately and publicly, that there is not going to be a deal. "Unless he's being less than honest," one source said, "there isn't going to be a deal."


The Sox' fear? That Boras persuades Matsuzaka it's in his best interests in the long term to return to Japan for two more years, become an unrestricted free agent, then command perhaps an unprecedented payday without having to share a cent with Seibu. Those concerns were heightened by comments such as this Boras made here Tuesday night: "Matsuzaka has a dream to pitch in the major leagues and he is going to fulfill that dream," Boras said. "The time frame of it, I can't exactly predict."

In the past, Boras has maintained that other posted players should have held out for bigger contracts. Boras has challenged the amateur draft system here, so it's not a stretch to see him challenging the posting system, too. {SNIP}

The flip side of the Sox' fears is this: Matsuzaka is determined to pitch in the major leagues. The prospect of returning to Japan, where he has little left to prove, is an untenable one. Matsuzaka, mindful that home run king Hideki Matsui signed a comparatively modest three-year, $21 million deal just two years ago as an unrestricted free agent, must also deal with the real possibility of being portrayed as unreasonably greedy in his Japan, which remains dazed at the size of the Sox' posting bid and might be dumbfounded if Matsuzaka spurns millions more than he could earn with Seibu.

And Seibu, of course, would much prefer a huge windfall from the Sox than having to return it if Matsuzaka comes back. {SNIP}

Boras apparently isn't measuring the value of this deal by itself but the value it might represent to all his clients (ergo, his relatively fixed percentage of their enlarged take).

Who will blink? I suspect the Red Sox won't. They either get the pitcher they want at the price they're willing to pay, or he is removed from the system. It's not like the competition for a free agent where an agent can play off teams against each other. The math is different -- the Red Sox "loss" does not mean the Yankees' "gain". The pressure on them to close a deal at any price is lowered.

How hard would it be for you to use other interests in a negotiation to reduce the power of your antagonist?

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