Could it be that Daisuke Matsuzaka will be traded before he even throws a pitch in the major leagues?
It's possible. There is nothing in the major league baseball posting process with players from Japan -- which has come under heavy scrutiny from team executives this offseason -- that prevents a team from placing a bid before Wednesday's 5 p.m. ET deadline, gaining the rights to Matsuzaka, then dealing him.
For example: Say the Detroit Tigers, steeped in starting pitching, were not interested in paying the high price Matsuzaka wanted to command but were interested in acquiring him for his trade value. They could, in theory, put down a posting fee of, say, $40 million, and if they were to win the rights to Matsuzaka, they could then offer him in trade to teams such as the Red Sox, Mets and Yankees -- and part of the trade price would be for those teams to pay most or all of the fee, in addition to surrendering a player or a package of players.
Or maybe the Matsuzaka bidding will play out more simply, with one of the interested teams -- the Rangers, Cubs, Mets, Yankees or Red Sox, or some team lying in the weeds -- winning the posting process and signing a pitcher who will be at the front of its rotation for years to come.
Here are some guidelines to the process:
Teams interested in bidding on Matsuzaka must fax or e-mail a bid to Lou Melendez, a vice president in Major League Baseball, or Moises Rodriguez, another member of baseball operations, by 5 p.m. ET Wednesday. By midday Wednesday, Melendez already had received bids; other bids might land just minutes before the deadline.
The commissioner's office will determine the highest monetary bid shortly -- probably within hours after Wednesday's deadline -- and without revealing the name of the team that posted the highest bid, that figure will be forwarded through league officials in Japan, to the Seibu Lions, who then will have 96 hours to say whether they accept or reject the fee. At that point, MLB will officially reveal the team that won the bid; it's possible the process could play out within 24 hours.
Scott Boras, the agent for Matsuzaka, will not have as much leverage as he does with free agents, but others in baseball say he could affect this process in a couple of interesting ways:
1. He could encourage a team to make a bid with the intent of trading Matsuzaka, thereby helping to steer Matsuzaka to a particular team.
2. He could challenge the posting rules in court as a violation of antitrust law because the process restricts Matsuzaka to negotiating with just one team -- arguably a restraint of trade.
Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.