Expectations were lofty for Daisuke Matsuzaka before he ever threw a pitch for the Boston. The Red Sox spent over $51 million just for the rights to negotiate with Matsuzaka, and then agreed on a six-year, $52 million deal with the right-hander–even though Dice-K did not reap the full benefits of this, as his former team the Seibu Lions were able to pocket the $51M, Boston essentially handed out $103 million for him.
Saying that is a ton of money is an understatement, and it’s amazing that we live in a world where certain members of the media will bash Boston for handing J.D. Drew a five-year, $70M contract, but you hear barely a peep about the $51 million dished out just to negotiate with someone when that could have been invested in many other areas of the team or the farm system. It’s a bill that has been paid though, and was therefore a sunk cost before he ever put on a Boston uni–if you’re just talking about the terms of his contract, Dice-K, for all the aggravation he causes those who watch him, hasn’t been overpaid thus far.
Inflation changes the value of contracts over time, so let’s just assume a flat figure of $5M as the cost of a win on the free agent market–it’s close enough for what we are trying to look at. Over the first four years of his deal, Matsuzaka has pulled in $32 million ($30M in salary, another $2 in a signing bonus). Over that stretch he has been valued at 10 wins above replacement exactly, or $50 million worth of value on the free agent market, so he has surprisingly given Boston a surplus.
That is a bit misleading though for a few reasons that make the next two years of the deal worth moving in a trade. The first two seasons of Matsuzaka’s tenure were worth 8.2 of those 10 wins, and therefore $41M of the value. He missed most of 2009 with an injury and was ineffective when he did pitch, and in 2010 all he has done is show everyone who watches him that he has learned nothing about adjusting to American League hitters since he arrived in the majors.
Here is something that many people do not consider when looking at something like WAR or WARP–it’s simply a reflection of results, and is not predictive in nature. Matsuzaka had five WARP in 2008, not because he is a five WARP pitcher, but because of a Boston defense that helped him to a .267 BABIP (well below the league average, never mind the average for someone who has to pitch in hitter-friendly Fenway) and also assisted him in stranding over 80 percent of his baserunners, a full 10 percentage points above the league average in that category.
xFIP and SIERA account for these kinds of things (as well as home run rate) and they paint a consistent story of Matsuzaka’s true talent level. From 2007-2010, Matsuzaka’s xFIP have been 4.31, 4.70, 4.83, and 4.67, while his SIERA have been 3.69, 4.35, 4.46 and 4.34. With the exception of that first season, every one of those performances is worse than the league average, meaning Matsuzaka is barely worth the $10 million he will be paid each of the next two seasons (a league average player is worth roughly two wins, or about $10 million).
Boston can afford, monetarily, to have a pitcher like Matsuzaka aboard, but given the way Josh Beckett and John Lackey have pitched during the first year of their new contracts, can they afford, from a performance standpoint, to stick with him in the rotation rather than find someone new? He is the holder of the lone rotation spot they can upgrade, as Beckett and Lackey are entrenched due to their deals, and moving Jon Lester or Clay Buchholz is out of the question and would accomplish nothing.
As we have seen, he’s not a bad deal from a monetary standpoint, and if the Red Sox agreed to eat a few million off of the top to the team they moved him to, he would be more like a bargain, especially in the proper environment–think a pitcher’s park or in the NL (or both). It’s very easy to envision a scenario where Daisuke Matsuzaka joins say, the Cardinals rotation, and immediately posts an ERA under four due to Busch Stadium and pitching in the least difficult division in the majors.
It’s difficult to pinpoint what he could bring back in such a deal in terms of players, but if moving him opens up a rotation spot that can be filled with a superior arm, then there is value in moving him no matter the return. The Red Sox can live with Dice-K in the rotation as the fifth starter, but given the long list of decisions they have to make in terms of 2011, and the limited number of areas they can feasibly upgrade at by then, moving Matsuzaka and replacing him with a superior pitcher has to be something to consider.
All salary data pulled from the peerless Cot’s Contracts