Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What can you buy for $103 million?

In an unusually harsh piece, Jeff Passan calls Daisuke "a bust," a "disappointment" and "undeserving" of his "staggeringly large deal." The Red Sox, he claims, would "love for him never to return" from Japan.

There's no doubt that Daisuke has failed to live up to the hype and the expectations that we had for him. But is he a bust? Given that Passan failed to note any statistics, perhaps we should check a few out. Since starting with the Red Sox in 2007, Daisuke has posted a 4.25 ERA. He has started 105 games and has a win-loss record of 49-30. This for $10,333,333 per year (6 years, $52 million).

Now, let's look at other pitchers, who signed contracts for similar amounts around the same time:

  • Kyle Lohse has the most comparable deal that I could find -- in 2008, he signed a 4-year, $41 million deal with St. Louis (a team that seems to know what pitching is worth.) Over the same period as Daisuke, he has posted a 4.33 ERA, has started 94 games, and is 34-26.

  • Ryan Dempster is in the third year of a 4-year, $44 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. Over the same period as Daisuke, he has posted a 3.84 ERA, has started 109 games, and has a 48-38 record.

  • Aaron Cook is in the final year of his 3-year, $30 million deal with the Colorado Rockies. Over the same period as Daisuke, he has a 4.26 ERA, has started 107 games, and has a record of 41-30.

  • Scott Kazmir is finishing off a 3-year, $28.5 million deal with the Angels. Over the same period as Daisuke, he has delivered a 4.42 ERA, 116 games, and a 44-41 record.
Given these stats, Daisuke's performance seems just about in line.

Now, some will arue that there was no need for the Red Sox to spend $51 million for the rights to negotiate with Daisuke (money that went to Japanese baseball, and not to Daisuke). Instead, they could have found a similar pitcher, with similar demands, on this side of the Pacific.* But the Red Sox didn't spend the $51 million posting fee just to open up the door to negotiations with Daisuke. They did it to open up the door to the entire Japanese fan base. Without access to the Red Sox's books, it's impossible to say how much the Red Sox have made from broadcast rights, advertising and marketing in Japan. But Scott Boras (who, admittedly, may not be exactly trustworthy on this) has said that the Yankees made an additional $21 million per year from the Japanese market due to Matsui's contract. And in Ichiro's rookie year, the Mariners' team revenue jumped from $138 million to $162 million. I somehow doubt the Red Sox team brass are losing sleep over the $51 million posting fee.

So, that just leaves them with Daisuke's $10.333 million/year salary. Are they regretting it? Since coming over, Daisuke has delivered just about what any other $10 million/year pitcher delivers. Yes, he can be frustrating to watch. Perhaps, as Jeff Suppan said, he can even be frustrating to deal with. Did he live up to our wild expectations? No. But was he a costly mistake? Hardly.

*Of course, all the pitchers noted above got their contracts in 2008. 2007 was a very thin free-agent year, so even if $10 million/year is the right price for a #3 starter, there weren't many available. If the Red Sox hadn't decided to spend in Japan, their other option would have been Barry Zito, who, gone 40-58 in the first four seasons of his 7-year, $126 million deal.


  1. wow, just read the article you referenced. incredibly harsh!!

  2. given the recent news that dice is opting for tommy john surgery, keeping him out of the lineup for most likely a year or more, the ROI on him is taking a significant hit.

    and who knows what pitcher we'll get back after the surgery... we barely knew what pitcher we were going to get BEFORE the surgery.

  3. Hardballtalk examined this issue this morning, and concluded: "According to Fan Graphs’ player evaluation system [Daisuke's]performance was worth about $44 million and Matsuzaka also had a 4.79 ERA in seven postseason starts, so let’s bump that up to around $50 million. There are probably also plenty of off-field factors involved in his overall value to the team, but strictly in terms of on-field performance for a six-year, $103 million investment the Red Sox received approximately $50 million worth of value in the form of one good season, two decent seasons, and two (and likely three) bad seasons."
    So if you discount the signing bonus (which Joel points out could be seen as a payment to open up the the Japanese market), they received equitable value from the guy. Doesn't feel like it, but they did.