Let the bidding for Matsuzaka begin

Let the bidding for Matsuzaka begin

The clock has begun ticking on Daisuke Matsuzaka, the pitching sensation who was formally "posted" by his Japan League club on Thursday afternoon.

The Seibu Lions' move officially opened bidding among Major League clubs for exclusive negotiating rights to the 26-year-old right-hander, starting a process that is expected to conclude with Matsuzaka signing a multiyear contract to instantly become the winning team's ace.

The deadline for bids is Wednesday 5 p.m. ET.

The winning rights fee, foreseen as surpassing $20 million, will go to Seibu as compensation for the loss of Matsuzaka, who followed up his MVP selection in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in March by going 17-5 with a 2.13 ERA this year.

The winning bidder will have a 30-day window to hammer out a deal with agent Scott Boras -- a contract that industry insiders project to go as long as five years with an annual compensation of $10 million.

Thus, the total outlay for Matsuzaka could exceed $70 million, one reason several teams apparently have gotten cold feet over getting involved in the competition, which one MLB source predicted will "get real nasty."

Even before the official posting, the Mariners, Angels, Orioles and Giants have reportedly removed themselves from the picture, according to various published reports.

Other clubs, including the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets, remain enthusiastic about a rare opportunity to land a young, polished No. 1 pitcher.

A 1998 top draft choice, who has captured each component of a pitcher's Triple Crown (wins, strikeouts and ERA) multiple times in Japan, Matsuzaka first attempted to answer the siren call of the Majors a year ago.

At that time, Seibu rejected his request to be posted. A year later, the club did not wish to remain in his way.

Said Hidekazu Ota, the Lions' controlling owner: "Matsuzaka is a treasure of Japanese baseball. We want to help realize his dream."

After two more Japan League seasons, Matsuzaka would've been eligible for no-strings free agency, used by several veteran Japanese players as their gateway to the big leagues.

The posting process, by comparison, has paved the way for such younger stars as Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki.

In 2000, the Mariners bid $13 million for the rights to Ichiro, whom they subsequently signed to a three-year, $14 million deal.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.