BARELY 24

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

There are barely 24 hours left until the deadline to sign Yu Darvish, which is Wednesday at 4:00 PM (Central).  All signs point to the deal getting done.  Last week, Nolan Ryan said he was confident that Darvish would be signed.  On Monday, Darvish’s agents – Arn Tellem and Don Nomura – arrived to complete the negotiations face to face.

The rumor is the biggest difference in the negotiations is length of contract, with the Rangers wanting a six year deal, while Darvish wants to hold it to five to have a shot at another contract at the age of 30.  If that is true, it is almost 100% certain that the contract will be finalized.

Since last Friday’s meeting at the Four Season’s Hotel in Irving between Prince Fielder, his agent Scott Boras and Ranger officials (said to include Nolan Ryan, Jon Daniels, Thad Levine and Ron Washington).  Most of what has been written conflicts:

Ryan:  “Preliminary”

Jim Bowden:  “It went swimmingly well”

Gerry Fraley:  “The Rangers sniffed a bargain.”

Evan Grant:  “Boras is still looking for a contract of at least seven years”

In other words, take your pick.  Grant has said that it has become obvious that Fielder really wants to be a Ranger.  Well “DUH”!  It’s late January, and Fielder hasn’t received any offer near his asking price.  Rosters are filling fast.  Very few teams have a loose $20 million to add to this year’s payroll, much less take on a nine-digit obligation.  Fielder has to be wondering if his agent sold him a bill of goods.  At this point, the two other rumored teams with interest are the Nationals and Cubs.  If that is in fact Fielder’s three potential landing spots, surely the Rangers have to be his favorite, as Texas is the only one of the three teams with a remote chance of making the playoffs.

It is clear that the meeting took place at the request of Boras, not the Rangers.  Boras’s reputation has already taken a hit when both Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira ended their relationship.  Failing to get a top of the line contract for Fielder will only tarnish it more.  Boras is certainly financially creative.  He has made a lot of sows ears look like silk purses.  He has his work cut out for him this time though.

T. R. Sullivan of MLB.com reported that the Rangers’ interest in Fielder was really for a plan B if Darvish isn’t signed, and that the Rangers won’t be signing both Fielder and Darvish.  A year ago, the Rangers added Adrian Beltre to improve the offense and defense when Cliff Lee opted for Philadelphia.  That worked out fine, and the Rangers are perhaps looking at the same formula in case Darvish doesn’t sign.  Part of plan B may also be to sign Roy Oswalt, who the Rangers are also said to have checked in on in recent days.

In any event, the end is near.  Darvish will be signed or not signed in little more than a day, and Ranger fans will have a much clearer picture of the direction of the Rangers in 2012.

OTHER MATTERS:  Texas announced they had agreed on a one-year, $1.7 million contract with Mark Lowe for 2012, avoiding arbitration.  Lowe made 52 relief appearances last year.  His signing leaves the Rangers with six players eligible for arbitration.

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