Yu Darvish – 2012 MLB Savior?
Saturday September 17, 2011
Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): This offseason, there could be only two elite pitchers available for teams to bid on. While C.J. Wilson looks to sign a deal close to $100M, CC Sabathia may be looking at opting out of his current contract with the Yankees. Before the 2009 season, Sabathia signed a 7 year, $161M contract in which he makes $23M annually from 2010-2015. Add in the fact that there will be at least five teams fighting for the services of two pitchers, an alternative must be found.
Yu Darvish, a Japanese right-handed pitcher could be the answer. Although it has not been confirmed that Darvish will even make the trek to North America to play in the MLB, teams are lining up to watch him pitch. Darvish’s ERA in the Japanese Pacific League for the Nippon Ham Fighters sits at 1.47. He also has 223 strikeouts. His 4-seam fastball sits in the 91-94 mph range with a great 2-seamer (or shuuto) with a lot of movement at 89-91 mph. He has a slurve, as well as a split-finger, which seems to be his choice for an out pitch.
Many teams will be interested in Darvish, but how many really have the financial ability to bid for him in the posting process. The process is basically a silent auction, with all teams that are interested putting a bid in, and the highest bid wins. The winning team then has 30 days to agree to a contract with the player. If an agreement is not reached, the posting fee is then returned back to the MLB team.
A player of Darvish’s magnitude rarely comes up in the posting process, so estimating a potential price is difficult. Really, the only comparison is Daisuke Matsuzaka. In 2006, the Boston Red Sox bid of $51,111,111 earned the rights to negotiate with the right-handed pitcher. Matsuzaka then agreed to a 6 year, $52M contract, that could be worth as much as $60M with incentives. Matsuzaka has been dominant at times, as witnessed by his 2008 season, where he went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. He was 4th in Cy Young Award voting after keeping hitters to a .211 average. He has also been below average, as this year, before going on the disabled list, he walked 5.5 batters per 9 innings.
There are very few teams with the financial flexibility to pull off such a move, while the other teams will pass Darvish up.
New York Yankees
With a payroll over $200M annually, the Yankees can always be in on any free agent, especially a high profile one. Behind CC Sabathia, who may opt out of his current contract, the Yankees have a lot of question marks in the rotation. Ivan Nova has had a solid season, but AJ Burnett and Phil Hughes had extremely disappointing campaigns. If the Yankees want to continue their success in the AL East, Darvish may be the key.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox, like the Yankees, have a lot of question marks in the rotation. Behind Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz, who were extremely solid this year, the rotation has been a mess. Matsuzaka struggled, Lackey has been pretty bad, and Tim Wakefield is nearing the end of his career. They don’t NEED Darvish like the Yankees do.
Toronto Blue Jays
General Manager Alex Anthopoulos has recently said that he was in Japan scouting Darvish. The Blue Jays also have question marks beyond ace Ricky Romero. Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Brett Cecil underperformed this year, while 21 year old Henderson Alvarez has really impressed in the second half. The Blue Jays have stated they could take on a payroll of $140-150M when the team is ready to contend.
GM Jon Daniels was in Japan in the summer to watch Darvish pitch, and could be a frontrunner for his services. With CJ Wilson ready to hit the free agent market, the Rangers will have a lot of quality innings to replace. Derek Holland is developing into a solid starter, to go along with Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando.
If the Dodgers ownership issues ever get solved, with the young core of players they have, they could put in a very serious bid. With the franchise struggling, and Hiroki Kuroda’s $12M coming off the books, expect the Dodgers to be aggressive this offseason if a new owner is put in place. One of the most storied franchises in baseball could get a huge boost in having Darvish come to town. Clayton Kershaw and Darvish could create a very formidable duo on the mound.
While other teams such as the Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox and Seattle Mariners have shown interest, I feel as though these five teams are the best possible fit. They have the money, and they have the willingness to shell it out to the right player.
I believe a posting fee near $65,000,000 will gain the negotiating rights to Yu Darvish. While the Yankees and Red Sox are always dangerous, I think that CJ Wilson is the biggest wildcard in the situation. If he walks from the Rangers, look for them to be very aggressive with Darvish. The winning team will likely have to cough up around 6 years and $75M in a contract, meaning the total amount spent by the team would be around $130M over 6 years. For that kind of money, these teams better be sure they are getting the ace they are looking for to take them over the top.
***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***
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