From the Newark Star-Ledger’s Ed Price.

At least three teams have attempted under-the-table negotiations to obtain Japanese ace Daisuke Matsuzaka, a Japanese newspaper reported. Major League Baseball said yesterday that nothing has been brought to its attention.

Teams have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to submit sealed bids for the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka, a 26-year-old right-hander who was MVP of the World Baseball Classic and went 17-5 with a 2.13 ERA this year for the Seibu Lions. The team making the highest bid (once accepted by Seibu) will have 30 days to sign Matsuzaka.

Sankei Sports quoted an unnamed Seibu executive making the charge, and he refused to identify the teams. “It is tampering, so I refused to meet them,” the executive said.

While the bidding process is sealed, a team could offer inducements other than cash if Seibu agreed to accept only part of the bid, allowing the team to make a larger bid to secure the right to sign Matsuzaka.

MLB, which reportedly sent out a memo to teams to warn them against tampering, said it is aware of such rumors and takes what safeguards it can against circumventing the system. And major-league teams would probably be eager to turn each other in if they had inklings of improprieties, which apparently has not happened in this case.

I’ll only point that while I’d be saddened by any wrongdoing on the part of the New York Mets, if Mrs. Jeff Wilpon is prepared to go the extra distance, some of us would be forever grateful.

Less than a week after the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman claimed Pedro Martinez’ rehab from torn rotator cuff surgery was going well, the New York Post’s Mark Hale raises the spectre of the Mets ace retiring. Given that Martinez is still in the early stages of recovery, I’m not sure if there’s a greater purpose to the latter item besides generating mass despair, but for a Saturday back page, I suppose it beats Nate Robinson’s distribution of the basketball.