Yu Darvish Can Make or Break Rangers Winter

It certainly doesn’t come as much of a shock, but the Texas Rangers lost C.J. Wilson through free agency. The instant ramifications of this deal seem to affect the Angels (Wilson’s new club) much more than they will the Rangers. Texas had already taken steps to replace their now-former southpaw even before Wilson signed yesterday.

The Rangers do, however, appear to still be in the market for pitching. Early off-season talk of a possible deal for Matt Garza of the Chicago Cubs has gained steam again in recent days, as the two clubs were reported to be in talks during the just-completed Winter Meetings. Add to that the Rangers known interest in Japanese mega-star Yu Darvish, and it’s fairly clear that despite having already six starting pitchers on the big league roster, the Rangers are looking to land another one.

While the Rangers, with their huge new TV contract about to kick in, seem to have much more money lying around than I had originally anticipated, you have to wonder how much they’ll be willing to spend on landing Darvish.

Speculation has been rampant that a deal for the right hander could soar in excess of $100 million when you factor in the posting fee. The Red Sox paid $51 million to a Japanese club for the right to talk to Daisuke Matsuzaka four years ago and Darvish comes with far fewer questions than Daisuke did.

For a better look at Darvish from a repertoire standpoint, Patrick Newman at NPB Tracker has a handy chart and game logs from the past three seasons of Darvish’s career with Nippon Ham Fighters. (click image for a larger view)

The Rangers are expected to bid aggressively in the posting process, which will conclude on Wednesday of next week, but early reports have both the Yankees and Red Sox unlikely to enter the bidding. Given the financial situations with the Dodgers and Mets, plus all the money spent already by the Marlins and Angels, the only major competition for Darvish is thought to be the Toronto Blue Jays.

This lack of competition could mean a much smaller-than-anticipated posting fee; maybe as low as $30 million. Of course, the teams bidding have no idea what other clubs are offering, so if the Rangers want to make sure they win the bid, they’ll have to offer a number higher than they feel anyone else will go.

If they feel that Darvish may cost more than they are comfortable with, Garza looks good as a fall back option. The Cubs are said to be seeking multiple young players in exchange for their right hander, but the Texas system is stocked. It would also make sense if one of the players going back to Chicago was a pitcher currently on the Rangers roster; one with a inexpensive, team-controlled contract. Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison would be the two most-likely candidates there, but any package for Garza would also have to include a pair of high-ceiling prospects as well.

The Rangers are far from a finished product, but there is still plenty of time to make moves to round out the roster. Texas will be looking for a left handed reliever or two as well as a utility infielder who can play shortstop. They also desire a starting centerfielder so they can shift Josh Hamilton to left field, and they may consider an upgrade at first base as well.

In order to get there, however, the Rangers will need to be active in the trade market. Darvish is the key here as well. If they can land the 25-year-old, another starting pitcher becomes expendable and can be sued to address other needs. Without Darvish, that starter probably has to be included in a deal for Garza or someone like him and they won’t have as many pieces to use to fill other holes.

Nolan Ryan has publicly stated that he won’t go near $100 million to land Darvish, but I don’t think he’ll have to. Ryan and the Rangers will, however, go hard after the import. He is the key to their offseason plans.

And quite possibly, the key to Texas holding on to their AL West crown.

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Topics: Matt Garza, Texas Rangers, Yu Darvish

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