The Texas Rangers made history last week, when they placed their bid for the negotiating rights for Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. Last night, Darvish’s club, the Nippon Ham Fighters, accepted the Rangers’ record-setting offer of a reported $51.7 million. The Rangers now have 30 days to come to an agreement with Darvish on a contract.
Early rumors suggest Darvish and his representatives, Arn Tellem and Don Nomura, are seeking a deal in the $90 million range from Texas. While it would appear that Darvish holds all the leverage here, being that Texas has already agreed to pay his ransom to the Fighters, that posting fee only has to be paid should Darvish and the Rangers agree to a deal. If the 30-day window passes without a contract in place, Darvish will return to the Fighters and Texas will owe nothing.
Additionally, Danny Knobler of CBSSports tweeted late last night that Darvish’s relationship with Nippon Ham has become strained, making it even more likely that the pitcher would lean toward signing a deal with the Rangers.
While there is pressure on Darvish to sign, else he would remain in Japan until after his contract with Nippon Ham expires after the 2014 season, the Rangers also have great incentive to get a deal done. GM Jon Daniels spoke last night about how the Rangers’ ownership group went above and beyond in allowing Daniels to place a bid as high as he did. One would expect that Daniels will have similar latitude in signing the pitcher.
The Rangers decided earlier in the off-season to allow C.J. Wilson to sign with the Angels without even making an official offer to keep their one-time ace. The feeling there is that Texas didn’t feel Wilson was worth more than a four-year, $60 million contract. Wilson got five years and $77 million from Anaheim. In other words, the Rangers were willing to pay upwards of $52 million plus the cost of a contract to get Darvish, but viewed Wilson, a guy with whom they were extremely familiar, as being worth barely half of what their final investment will be with Darvish.
The Rangers struck early in free agency, landing closer Joe Nathan. That move allowed them to shift former closer Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation. From that point, however, the Rangers kept quiet and allowed the Winter Meetings to come and go without much action. All the while, it appears, Daniels and the Rangers had a plan and they executed it when Darvish was posted.
The next step in that plan is to actually sign the player and this is more than just a formality. When the Red Sox won the bid for Daisuke Matsuzaka prior to the 2007 season, contract negotiations literally came down to the final few minutes of their window to sign him before a deal was finally reached. Matsuzaka was represented by Scott Boras, so part of that was surely expected, but Tellem is no slouch at the bargaining table, either.
Daniels noted during his media session last night that he comments at that time would be the last we’d hear from him on the topic of Darvish until the two sides had come to a resolution, one way or the other. All we can do now is speculate regarding the size and length of the contract being discussed.