Japanese right hander Yu Darvish has been the talk of the international baseball world ever since he made his Nippon Professional Baseball League debut as an 18-year-old in 2005. Baseball fans in the United States have caught fleeting glimpses of him during the two World Baseball Classics and Darvish has not disappointed.
The long-awaited announcement on when Darvish will come to the Major Leagues was made last night, when Darvish stated that he would be posted on Thursday. The Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays are expected to be very aggressive with their bids for the right to talk to Darvish, though several other clubs will likely be in on the bidding as well.
If you aren’t familiar with the posting system, here’s a brief explanation: Darvish’s current club, Nippon Ham Fighters, will accept bids from major league clubs. The highest bidder will be awarded a 30-day window to negotiate a contract with the star right hander. If a contract cannot be reached in that 30-day window, Darvish will return to Nippon Ham for another season and the club that won the negotiating rights will not have to pay the posting fee. If a contract is reached between Darvish and the winning bidder, that club will pay Darvish whatever salary they agree upon in addition to paying the posting fee directly to Nippon Ham.
The most recent comparable for Darvish is Daisuke Matsuzaka, who went through the posting system prior to joining the Boston Red Sox in 2007. The Red Sox won those negotiating rights by submitting a bid of over $51 million. Here’s the kicker though; the next highest bid for Matsuzaka was just $30 million. Essentially bids are submitted in sealed envelopes and no one knows what the others clubs have bid. The Red Sox spent $20 million more than they had to in order to obtain the rights just to talk to Daisuke, but they couldn’t have known that at the time.
Darvish doesn’t look like other Japanese pitchers we’ve seen State-side before. He’s tall, listed at 6’5″ and strong at 220 lbs. His arsenal features a fastball that sits in the low-90s, but with the ability to reach back for 95 when needed. He’s exceptionally polished on the mound and comes with the experience of having been the biggest star in the NPB since Ichiro Suzuki left to come to America.
Over his past four seasons, Darvish has posted a combined ERA of 1.81 and averaged over a strikeout per inning while walking just 2.1 batters per nine innings. He is still just 25 years old.
As Peter Gammons noted last night on MLB Network, there are some concerns over how well Darvish will adapt to pitching in the major leagues. The baseballs in Japan are slightly smaller than those used by Major League Baseball and pitchers in the NPBL are on a strict every-fifth-day regiment. Darvish will need to get adjusted to an every-fourth-day rotation and that could be a bigger adjustment than one would assume. Matsuzaka has struggled adjusting to both of these differences, though he was very good for Boston in his first two seasons in the U.S.
It has the feel like this was kind of always part of the plan for the Rangers. They have operated this off-season like they expected C.J. Wilson to leave town, and he looks likely to do so. They made an offer to Mark Buehrle, but certainly not enough to land him in Texas. Darvish, however, has always been on their radar. they have sent scouts to Japan to watch him pitch and their international scouting department is one of the best in the game.
Look for the Rangers to be one of the biggest player in the Darvish frenzy that is about to take hold. I expect the Rangers will pull out all the stops in order to win the bidding on Darvish’s posting. If that means they have to go as high as $50 million to win the bidding, I expect that they are willing to do so.
For a closer look at Darvish and the Rangers potential involvement, click here.