BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Rangers and agents for Yu Darvish utilized almost every minute up to Wednesday’s 4:00 PM (Central) deadline to finalize Darvish’s contract.  It is reportedly a six-year deal totalling $60 million with $56 million guaranteed money and $4 million of reasonably attainable incentives.  Coupled with the $51.7 million posting fee, the total cost to the Rangers is $111.7 million, an average annual cost of approximately $18.6 million.  ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted that only five pitchers contracts have previously exceeded $111.7 million; those of CC Sabathia, Barry Zito, Johan Santana, Mike Hampton and Cliff Lee.  Interestingly, all five are left handed. With the posting fee paid up front, the net present value of Darvish’s contract is likely the highest in baseball history.

Darvish is scheduled to arrive in the area to be introduced at a Friday press conference.  At Wednesday’s press conference after the signing attended by Darvish’s agents and Ranger officials, Don Nomura (one of Darvish’s representatives) indicated that the Rangers’ extensive scouting over a period of years had made the team Darvish’s preferred destination.  General Manager Jon Daniels indicated the team had done far more than put the radar gun on Darvish.  Indeed, the Rangers have already developed a relationship with the pitcher.

The Rangers had hoped that the contract would be finalized before last weekend’s Fan Fest.  That was not to be, but Yu Darvish jerseys will soon be available with his favored uniform number 11, which was worn by hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh last season.  Coolbaugh will now wear number 12.

The Angels obviously made a huge splash at the winter meetings by signing Albert Pujols and C. J. Wilson in their efforts to make up the 10 games they finished behind the Rangers last season.  The Darvish signing goes a long way toward the Rangers matching the Angels ”splash-wise”, and goes a long way toward maintaining that 10 game lead if he is the pitcher the Rangers expect him to be.

In a side note, ESPN announced their Sunday night game schedule yesterday.  They selected the White Sox – Rangers to telecast on Sunday, April 8, the opening weekend of the baseball season.  The network obviously hopes that Texas will choose that game for Darvish’s Major League debut.  A ticket for that game is likely to be more prized than one for opening day.

The addition of Darvish brings the Rangers’ stable of starting pitchers to seven.  Colby Lewis, already announced as this year’s opening day starter, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando, and Scott Feldman return from last season; and the Rangers have announced their intention to move Neftali Feliz from the bullpen to the starting rotation.  Last season, the starting five coming out of spring training started 157 games.  That is an astounding figure and not likely to be matched any season soon.  It is not unusual for a team to go through 10 or more starting pitchers in the course of a season.  Going into spring training last year, most projections of the the Rangers’ rotation included Tommy Hunter and Brandon Webb.  Neither started a game.  Harrison and Ogando were considered EXTREME long shots to make the rotation, yet they collectively won 27 games.  The log jam will in all likelihood sort itself out naturally.

Undoubtedly, super agent Scott Boras was one of the few disappointed people to learn of the Darvish signing.  The Rangers were apparently considering his client – Prince Fielder – if the Darvish deal fell through to loosen up a pile of Ranger cash.  Rangers’ general manager Jon Daniels said after the Darvish signing that it is highly unlikely that the Rangers will pursue Fielder.  It is obvious that Texas is no longer a candidate for even a five or six year nine-digit deal for Fielder, and the remaining options for the hefty first baseman are preciously few.  If he opts to lower his price and take a one or two year deal in order to try the free agent market again soon, he could end up with Texas.

However, the Ranger offense is already one of if not the most prolific in baseball.  The team has a solid rotation, probably one of the top five in baseball.  The defending American League champions should be the favorites to repeat again in 2012.

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