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Steam from the Hot Stove

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An occasional look around the majors with commentary on major offseason transactions.

Boston Red Sox-Our division rivals to the north shocked many in baseball when it was disclosed that their bid for Japanese pitching star Daisuke Matsuzaka totaled $51.1 million. Now granted, Matsuzaka looks like he will be an excellent pitcher, posting a 2.13 ERA last year for the Seibu Lions of the Japanese League. Still, to spend $51.1 million for the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka seems like a major overpayment. You figure that the team has not even begun to pay him at all, that the $51.1 million is just to pay off Seibu, and you are talking a deal that could easily put the total cost of acquiring Matsuzaka to the nine digit range. I am not particularly looking forward to facing a Red Sox rotation next year that could potentially include Matsuzaka, Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield, Jon Papelbon, and Josh Beckett, but I also don't envy the Red Sox's status in having to pay $100 million to a pitcher who has not picked up a ball in the major leagues. Whether Matsuzaka becomes the next Hideki Irabu or the next Hideki Matsui remains to be seen, and obviously the Red Sox must feel quite strongly on the issue with the resources they devoted to acquiring him. But pending the signing of Matsuzaka's actual contract, they hadn't better be just "sure", they had better be "damn sure" that they are getting a player worth the money. With Theo Epstein you normally give him the benefit of the doubt, but this deal leads to serious doubts from my end. And as a full-fledged Red Sox hater, that isn't a problem.

New York Mets-The insane spending for pitching was not exclusive to Beantown, it has also spread to (shock shock) the Big Apple as well. The Mets yesterday signed pitcher Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez to a two year, $12 million deal. As Juan Guzman-esque as the deal sounds, his peripheral stats were actually quite good last year, as he struck out over nine batters per nine innings and lowered his walk rate. The peculiar part of it was that his strikeout rate was almost three batters lower the year before, and he has been inconsistent over the last couple of years. He just turned 37 last month, and with his prior track record of inconsistency, the injuries he suffered this postseason, as well as the fact that his ERA and home run rates simply were not good makes this deal very odd, on the Mets' part. I know that with Pedro out, they need pitching, but one would think that they could have gone out on the open market and found a better deal for another pitcher, rather than pay a 37 year old $12 million in guaranteed money. Oh well, same ole Mets.

Chicago Cubs-You can cross one name off of our respective fan wish lists. The Cubs on Tuesday signed former Rangers second baseman Mark DeRosa to a three year, $13 million contract. Granted, the addition of DeRosa certainly beats the awful tandem of Ronny Cedeno and Ryan Theriot that the Cubs used at second last year, but the Cubs don't need DeRosa that badly so as to overpay him by this much. How Jim Hendry still has a job is still mystifying to me, but the fact that he keeps making dumb moves and doesn't seem to glean a thing from his (many) mistakes is truly baffling to me. This has the fingerprints of Sweet Lou all over it. Yes DeRosa batted .296/.357/.456 last year, but take a look at the non-Arlington numbers, Jim. Before posting a .764 OPS the previous year (in Arlington), DeRosa had been run out of town in Atlanta, doing horribly in 2003 and 2004. In fact, 2002 was the only year in which DeRosa got more than 200 PA (232) and did a decent job. His career OPS is still .735, despite Arlington working its magic. After four years, Jim Hendry still doesn't get it.

New York Yankees-The Yankees moved a step closer to solidifying their 2007 pitching staff, reportedly agreeing to terms with Mike Mussina on a two year extension in lieu of a declined option. The deal is worth $22.5 million over the life of the agreement. This isn't an egregious waste of money, but it just seems like the same ole free-spending Yankees. Consider, for instance, that Mussina put up a sub-4.41 ERA last year for the first time since 2003 and that he will be 38 in under a month. He is also maddeningly inconsistent, alternating between ace-like starts and pull-your-hair-out bombings. Still, Mussina has always been able to keep up a respectable K/BB and WHIP, as he walked only 1.6 batters over every nine innings last year, while seeing a jump in his strikeout rate. I suppose this is the price you pay for consistency and to keep a borderline Hall of Famer like Moose around. In ordinary instances, this would be an overpayment, but considering the Yankees and it is Mike Mussina, it doesn't look so bad. Still, it will be interesting to see what else New York does to improve a pitching staff that has cost them a shot at the World Series for each of the last three years.

Report: Yankees, Mussina agree on two-year deal [ESPN.com]
DeRosa signs with Cubs [Chicago Tribune]
Mets keep El Duque with two-year, $12M deal [ESPN.com]
Matsuzaka 'surprised' at Red Sox bid [Boston Globe]
Daisuke Matsuzaka stats [JapaneseBallPlayers.com]