BY: Richard W. Humphrey
YU DARVISH: This deadline for submitting bids to obtain the exclusive negotiating rights to Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish is this afternoon at 4:00 PM local time. It is not certain as to how high the posting fee will go even within a range of $5,000,000 nor how many teams will be submitting bids. Texas has scouted Darvish so extensively that some national commentators make the Rangers the favorite to land the Japanese phenom. However, Darvish is said to strongly prefer a West Coast team and may not sign if his rights are won by a team domiciled elsewhere. It is not even a certainty then that Texas will make a bid.
Jon Heyman commented on the MLB Network this week that he thought the winning bid would be in the $35 – $40 million range, and that it would take a contract akin to the one that C. J. Wilson signed last week with the Angels (five years at $77.5 million) to land the Japanese phenom. It is logically doubtful that Texas will be players if Heyman’s prediction comes true. The Rangers’ interest in Wilson and Mark Buehrle is said to have been around four years at $60 million and $50 million respectively. The team chose to pass when Wilson signed for an additional year and $17.5 million and Buehrle signed for an additional $10 million. It seems illogical then that the Rangers would commit to more than $100 million for Darvish, who has never thrown a pitch in the major leagues.
Darvish however is intriguing. His father is Iranian and his mother is Japanese, and they actually met in St. Petersburg, Florida. Darvish is 6′ 5″ tall with a thin, though developing body. In Japan, he has gained rock star status, such that teenage girls often arrive at the park early to watch him warm up before starts. He is also said to have an ego that goes with his status.
However, all reports about his work on the mound gather interest. With his lanky body, he has a free and easy throwing motion. He is said to have four-seam and two-seam fastballs that register 92-94 on the radar gun. He has a variety of breaking pitches and a change up. In five seasons in Japan, he has been extremely dominant. His won a league leading 18 games in 2011 with a 1.44 ERA, and his HIGHEST ERA in any season has been 1.88.
The question is really then how well he will adapt to the game and life style of major league baseball. Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who managed in Japan for seven years this century says Darvish will be one of the top five pitchers in baseball soon. Trey Hillman, currently the Dodgers’ bench coach, managed Darvish in Japan says flatly that he is a number one.
In 2006, Boston won the bidding for Daisuke Matsuzaka with a posting bid of $51,111,111.11, still the record posting fee. The Red Sox committment rose to more than $100 million with the contract they ultimately signed. After two good years (33 wins) with Boston, Matsuzaka has largely been a bust, winning just 16 games in the three subsequent seasons. He is presently recovering from Tommy John surgery and will likely miss most of the 2012 season.
General managers are thus wary of Japanese starting pitchers who have not shown much in the way of longevity after arriving in U. S baseball. They are also being coy about their team’s interest in Darvish. More known bidders will only run up the price. The consensus is that the posting fee will not approach the record fee paid for Matsuzaka, so it is possible that the Rangers will be competitive if they bid.
In any event, fans will soon know which team will have the shot at signing the pitcher that many believe is the best free agent acquisition available on this winter’s market.
TENDERS AND NON-TENDERS: Texas had seven arbitration eligible veterans and tendered contracts to all of them prior to last Monday’s 11:00 PM (Central) deadline. The offers were extended to catcher Mike Napoli, shortstop Elvis Andrus, outfielders Nelson Cruz and David Murphy, and pitchers Matt Harrison, Mike Adams and Mark Lowe. All could have been free agents had the offers not been tendered.
Pitcher Derek Holland missed qualifying for arbitration by just 12 days of service time. Fabio Castilio, a 22 year-old reliever that was on the Rangers’ 40-man roster last season, but has not advanced passed the double A level, was not tendered a contract and did become a free agent. He was 3-6 with a 6.46 ERA and nine saves at AA Frisco (42 games) last year.