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Look East, G.M.
December 11, 2006
You'd have thought that pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka was the last player left in Japan, given what the Red Sox bid ($51.1 million) last month just to talk to him. (D-Mat has yet to sign.) But plenty of Japanese league stars are attracting attention on this side of the Pacific:
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December 11, 2006

Look East, G.m.

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You'd have thought that pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka was the last player left in Japan, given what the Red Sox bid ($51.1 million) last month just to talk to him. (D-Mat has yet to sign.) But plenty of Japanese league stars are attracting attention on this side of the Pacific:

? Kei Igawa, LHP. The Yankees won the rights to the 27-year-old (left) with a $26,000,194 bid—the last three digits a tribute to his league-leading strikeout total last season. He has yet to sign with the Yanks, but nonetheless he's ready for the Sox: "I'm looking forward to having a pitching duel with Matsuzaka."

? Hideki Okajima, LHP. The Red Sox gave him a two-year, $2.5 million deal to come out of the bullpen—and be a buddy to Matsuzaka. Said G.M. Theo Epstein, "If we do end up with two Japanese pitchers, that certainly would help the assimilation process."

? Akinori Iwamura, 3B. A day after the Matsuzaka derby ended, the Devil Rays won the rights to the 27-year-old Yakult Swallows slugger (right) with a $4.5 million bid. A career .300 hitter, he is reportedly close to signing a deal.

?Julio Zuleta, 1B. One of the Japan's leading sluggers, the former Cub, 31, is eyeing a return to the bigs. His sales pitch: He owns Matsuzaka, off whom he hit seven homers. Said Zuleta's agent, "He's seen him more than anybody."

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