The Land of the Rising Sun has taken a premier place with the Texas Rangers with the signing of Yu Darvish. Yu joins fellow Japanese pitchers Koji Uehara and Yoshinori Tateyama, as well as Colby Lewis a veteran of the Hiroshima Carp of the Japanese Central League. By putting up the record posting bid of $51,703,411 to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japanese Pacific League the Texas Rangers were prepared to sign Yu, it was just a matter of time for the contract to be settled. The Rangers had 30 days from the December 19, 2011 posting announcement to secure a contract with Yu or he would have returned to the Hokkaido Fighters.
While the posting system is archaic and is designed to strictly look after the needs of Japanese baseball teams, it provides a team the sole opportunity to negotiate with a player without affecting a team’s payroll. During the 30 day negotiation period the Rangers were able to get a contract completed with Yu although it did take the entire 30 days and caused quite a lot of consternation within the Rangers fan base. In the end the Rangers and Yu came to an agreement that has been widely reported to be 6 years and $60 million. Let’s go into the contract and see what it really looks like.
Before we go into the numbers of Yu’s contract let’s have a brief second to compare the man he is replacing C.J. Wilson. Wilson is 21 years old and stood 6’1” 210 pounds and was a power southpaw. He was also the 5th round pick of the Rangers in the 2001. In 2010 he was moved out of the bullpen and into the starting rotation, much like the move Neftali Feliz is doing this year. Yu is 6’5” and posted at 185 pounds although he has put on some muscle mass since the end of the 2011 Japanese season. Unlike Wilson Yu is a right handed pitcher who, depending on the scout, has up to 9 different pitches.
Yu Darvish’s agent is a man named Don Namura and over the 30 day period I am sure that he and Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels were in near constant communication in order to get a contract done. It was almost a given fact that Yu would not be returning to Japan. Yu had become the top pitcher in the Japanese League after posting a career ERA of 1.72 with a WHIP of .890 along with a win loss record of 76 and 28. He had a SO/BB ratio of 4.90 and a H/9 rate of a mere 6.1. Over a 5 year career he gave up only 39 homeruns and 221 walks.
While the initial reports of the contract had the deal at 6 years and $60 million that is not exactly accurate. The contract is broken down into the following amounts:
2012 $5.5 million
2013 $9.5 million
2014 $10 million
2015 $10 million
2016 $10 million
2017 $11 million
In addition there is $800,000 bonus that can be earned per year for any year that he spends less than 30 days on the disabled list.
The 2017 year is guaranteed by Yu can opt out of it by either winning the Cy Young award once or finish in the top 4 several times in the Cy Young voting. So in the end he has a guaranteed $56 million.
Just to show you how much of a favorable contract this is for the Rangers. In 2011 the Hokkaido Fighters had a $6.5 million contract with Yu, a million more than that the Rangers will pay him in 2012. Compare this with the Wilson contract of 5 years $75 million to join the Angels that shocked the world in December.
As expected Yu will be using the number 11 on his jersey, and also as expected Texas Rangers fans around the nation are waiting impatiently for his jerseys to hit the market.
Time will only tell if he will break the mold of former Japanese starting pitchers. As we sit in January we can dream of a Japanese Cy Young winner and another trip to the World Series.