11/24/08 12:30 AM EST
Red Sox make offer to righty Tazawa
Touted Japanese amateur said to be leaning toward Boston
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
The Web site for Japanese newspaper Sankei Sports is reporting that the Boston Red Sox have made a $6 million contract offer to right-handed pitcher Junichi Tazawa.
The report indicated that the 22-year-old Tazawa met with Craig Shipley, the Red Sox's vice president of international scouting, for nearly two hours.
Japanese paper Nikkan Sports was reporting late Sunday that Tazawa had already chosen the Red Sox and that he would sign sometime in early December.
The deal is reported by Nikkan to be a Major League deal for $3 million over three years, though it's not known if there's a signing bonus or not.
The Red Sox, as is their standard policy when it comes to free-agent negotiations, international or otherwise, chose not to comment on the reports.
"Sorry we don't comment on any negotiation in process," Shipley wrote in an e-mail to MLB.com.
Two offseasons ago, Shipley was largely responsible for Boston's successful pursuit of Matsuzaka (fourth in the American League in the Cy Young Award race this season) and Okajima, who has been one of the best lefty setup men in the American League the last two years.
Tazawa, who has attracted attention from several Major League teams, skipped the Japanese draft in order to sign with a Major League team. Because of this, he will not require a posting fee.
That would be a considerable savings from when Boston made a blind bid of $51.1 million to the Seibu Lions to win negotiating rights for Matsuzaka. The Red Sox then signed Matsuzaka to a six-year, $52 million contract, meaning the total acquisition cost for the gifted righty was $103.1 million.
But it's a much different situation in that Tazawa hasn't pitched in professional baseball, while Matsuzaka was a star for the Seibu Lions for eight seasons.
Though Tazawa is a bit of an unknown commodity because of his lack of pro experience, he has drawn interest from not just the Red Sox, but other teams as well.
The Tigers sent a scout to Japan to meet with Tazawa last week.
The Atlanta Braves, MLB.com reported three weeks ago, were "believed" to have offered Tazawa a contract. Reports have also suggested that the Mariners -- led by a Japanese superstar in outfielder Ichiro Suzuki -- are also in the running.
The Red Sox could be an attractive destination for Tazawa because of the presence of Matsuzaka and Okajima, who have made impressive transitions to the Major Leagues and the culture of the United States.
Tazawa spent 2008 pitching for the Nippon Oil team in Japan's Industrial League, which is for amateurs. His fastball is reportedly in the upper 90s, topping out at 97 mph.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.