Signing of Tazawa may start a bad trend in major league baseball

November 25, 2008

(ChattahBox) — It’s baseball free agency time and the desire to win at all costs by some clubs means there will the usual surprisingly foolish and greedy decisions. One of those is that the Boston Red Sox are reportedly close to signing Junichi Tazawa of Japan.  Several other teams scouted and are also pursuing Tazawa, but Boston, seems to be in the lead to eventually sign him. He’s a 22-year-old Japanese amateur player who depending on who you believe has a chance to be pretty good depending on the scout you ask.   But whether Tazawa is any good or not isn’t what’s at question. The pitcher is an amateur player and by signing him, the Red Sox would break a decades-old unspoken agreement between the Major Leagues and the Japanese leagues not to steal amateur players from each other’s country.

For the Japanese, this is a huge potential problem. If they can’t keep their best players in their Leagues for at least a few years, the quality of their baseball will quickly diminish. It could hypothetically impact all of baseball as well-financed Japanese may choose to try to sign top American prospects in retaliation, but it seems doubtful. While Japanese teams might regard the signing of Japanese prospects negatively, for North American teams, the pursuit of these same players makes perfect sense. Young Japanese pitchers would have longer Major League careers than veteran Japanese pitchers, and perhaps more to the point, they would be much, much cheaper. The solution could be to put an ironclad rule in place and perhaps that will be the legacy Tazawa leaves. But for now, there’s a hole in the system and some teams that don’t care about walking through it.

As for free agency is it wise for clubs to offer $100 million for players like CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and Manny Ramirez in these troubled economic times? Everybody is waiting for CC Sabathia to make his move (he’s been reportedly offered $140 million by the Yankees). It will set a price for other players and clarify what other clubs will do. We are seeing the impact of the economy in how teams are setting pricing for next season’s tickets. Many clubs are being extremely conservative, and are taking very small increases, or even holding last year’s pricing. However, there are two new Stadiums in New York, leading to huge revenue increases for both teams. And teams in big markets like the Cubs and Red Sox seem insulated from the economic pressure based on their strong brands and heavy season ticket base.  So more then ever you could have a huge disparity between the have and have not’s in baseball.  So it’s not just the Japanese that have to worry about big market teams buying all the best players.


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