Hot Stove: All eyes on Matsuzaka

Hot Stove: All eyes on Matsuzaka

Red Sox officials and agent Scott Boras took the negotiations for free agent pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka from California back to Boston on Wednesday as the two sides reportedly hammered out an agreement before the negotiating window for the Japanese star closed Thursday night at midnight ET.

The drama was watched closely not only by the media and Boston fans, but by a number of free-agent starting pitchers still on the market who could be impacted by the Matsuzaka signing.

In what has already been one of the most lucrative free agent seasons in at least five years, the amount Matsuzaka gets -- reportedly $52 million over six years -- could have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the pitching market.

Though many have already signed, there are at least 40 starting pitchers still on the market.

Here's a few whose futures could be impacted the most by what happened in Boston:

Barry Zito: Another Boras client, the left-hander is the top free-agent pitcher on the market and a talent drawing interest from coast to coast. Texas, San Francisco and the Mets are believed to be the most aggressive bidders.

Roger Clemens: The Astros, Red Sox and Yankees are all waiting to see what Clemens will do, and his status hasn't changed -- the seven-time Cy Young Award winner hasn't decided whether he will pitch again in 2007. With Clemens, however, money is not the only issue and may not be the deciding factor should he decide to pitch another year.

Jeff Suppan: At least 10 teams have interest in the right-hander and postseason hero, who figures to continue to draw a lot of interest as the pool of established starters dwindles and with so many teams still looking for pitching.

Jeff Weaver: Yet another Boras client, Weaver's strong second half and solid postseason has kept him on the radar of a number of teams. With other free agents like Miguel Batista and Gil Meche signing elsewhere, the interest in Weaver could pick up in the coming weeks.

Elsewhere on the Wednesday Hot Stove:

Blue Jays: Toronto has formally offered a contract extension to center fielder Vernon Wells, though Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi steered clear of any specifics.

"We made him an offer, but that's all I'm going to say," Ricciardi said. "We're going to try to keep the player."

Last week, Ricciardi said that he would like to reach agreement on a long-term deal with Wells, who is under contract for $5.6 million in 2007, some time in the next month or so. If the two sides aren't able to agree on an extension during that timeframe, Toronto could either stall discussions until later on or possibly entertain trade offers for Wells.

Last season, the 28-year-old Wells hit .303 with 32 home runs and 106 RBIs. He also picked up his third consecutive American League Gold Glove Award for his steady defense in center.

Wells would join a deep crop of free-agent center fielders next winter if he decided to test the open market rather than sign an extension with the Jays. Minnesota's Torii Hunter, Atlanta's Andruw Jones and Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki, among others, are eligible to become free agents.

Giants: The Giants have expressed interest in acquiring right-hander Russ Ortiz, but haven't made a decision on whether they will offer a contract to the former San Francisco pitcher.

Marlins: Agent Mike Powers, who represents Giants closer Armando Benitez, says his client would welcome returning to the Marlins. Powers told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that Benitez is still under contract with San Francisco, and he's set to make $7.6 million in 2007. For a deal to be done, both sides would have to agree that the Giants would pick up a bulk of that salary. The Marlins have budgeted $2 million for a closer, and they'd have to weigh how much more than that, if any, they would use toward a Benitez deal.

The Marlins also are considering a possible trade with Tampa Bay for Seth McClung, who is a closer candidate. The Sun-Sentinel speculated the Marlins may try pursuing reliever Chris Reitsma, who was non-tendered Tuesday by Atlanta. Reitsma is coming off elbow surgery and may not be ready to begin pitching until midway through Spring Training.

Pirates: The Yankees and Red Sox are among the teams interested in Pirates closer Mike Gonzalez, but neither team thus far has met Pittsburgh's price. The Pirates and Braves had talked about a potential deal at the Winter Meetings that would have sent first baseman Adam La Roche to Pittsburgh for Gonzalez, but those talks fell apart.

Royals: Disappointed by Miguel Batista's apparent agreement to terms with the Mariners, the Royals are looking elsewhere for another starting pitcher, perhaps former Royal and current free agent Jeff Suppan. The Royals are also looking at trade possibilities and have, among others, outfielders Emil Brown and Reggie Sanders as potential trade bait.

Jim Molony is a writer for reporters contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.