And the winner in the Daisuke Matsuzaka sweepstakes is ... the Boston Red Sox.
Almost a week after receiving the highest bid for the 26-year-old right-hander, the Seibu Lions on Tuesday notified Major League Baseball that they would accept the offer in the reported $40 million range submitted by the Red Sox.
Other MLB organizations that submitted bids during the "posting" period were not identified. But the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have acknowledged their participation in the process, while the New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels and Arizona Diamondbacks are believed to have submitted bids.
The next step in Matsuzaka's dream of pitching in the Major Leagues comes in the next four weeks as the Red Sox have 30 days to reach a contract agreement. If an agreement isn't reached before the 30-day window expires, the "posting" money would be returned to the Red Sox and Matsuzaka would return to the Lions for the 2007 season.
A 17-game winner for the Lions during the '06 regular season, and Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic played last March, Matsuzaka figures to receive an offer from the Red Sox that would make him one of the highest-paid pitchers in 2007 -- and beyond.
With quality starting pitching at such a premium, some baseball officials believe Matsuzaka could command a deal comparable to the five-year, $73 million contract that Houston Astros right-hander Roy Oswalt signed on Aug. 30.
The Red Sox envision Matsuzaka becoming part of a starting rotation that could include right-handers Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon, and left-hander Jon Lester.
Scott Boras, one of the most influential agents in the business, is noted for finding at least two organizations willing to bid for the services of a particular client. But the Red Sox have exclusive negotiating rights to Matsuzaka.
The right-hander has been one of the most dominant pitchers in Japan's Pacific League the past eight seasons, posting a 108-60 record and 2.95 ERA. He led the league in wins three times, strikeouts four times and ERA two times. His 17-5 record, 2.13 ERA, 200 strikeouts in 186 1/3 innings -- along with his dazzling performance in the inaugural World Baseball Classic -- all factor into his popularity among MLB organizations.
"He is very special," former MLB manager Bobby Valentine recently told the Seattle Times. "He has a good fastball that he throws from 90-95 mph. He has very good control and can throw any one of three other pitches over for a strike at any time in the count.
"He likes to compete and is a good fielder. He would do very well in the States. He is going to pitch at 27 next year and has pitched more than any other pitcher his age. He might pay the price for that in the future, but you have to play now to find out about that later."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.