Fans of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) are undoubtedly familiar with Yu Darvish, and it seems American fans will be getting familiar soon. Darvish, a pitcher of Japanese and Iranian descent has dominated the NPB for the past five years – twice winning the MVP for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. There has been wide interest in Darvish among Major League Baseball (MLB) teams this off-season, and yesterday it was announced that the Texas Rangers bid a record $51.7 million for his negotiating rights.
The bidding process is known as the “Posting System” whereby Japanese teams sell the negiotiating rights to star players. Following an announced posting, MLB teams have a period of 4 days to submit sealed bids. The winning bidder then has 30 days to negotiate a contract. Once terms are agreed upon, the posting fee is collected by the Japanese team as a transfer fee. If terms cannot be agreed upon, the bid is forfeit and the player returns to his Japanese team for the following season. The posting system was implemented in the late 1990’s and was the method by which Ichiro Suzuki and Daiskuke Matsuzaka were transferred. Matsuzaka drew the previous record bid $51.1 million from the Red Sox in 2006.
Darvish is expected to land a contract in the 5 years $75 million range, making the Rangers total investment more than $125 million, but about market value for an ace pitcher. Remember, the Phillies gave Cliff Lee 5 years $120 million just over a year ago. There are the usual concerns about coming across the Pacific: He will be facing superior pitching in more hitter-friendly ballparks. If he follows in Ichiro’s footsteps, his addition to already loaded Rangers team would make them serious World Series contenders for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, if he is more the Matsuzaka model, the Rangers may be hamstrung by the hefty contract.
It’s a substantial risk, but Darvish is built solidly at 6’5″ and 215 lbs and has a track record of excellence. Darvish has great command has maintained an ERA under 2.00 for the past five seasons. At 25 year old, he has all the markings of an ace pitcher and plenty of good years ahead of him. As a Phillies fan, I’m terrified that the Rangers are building a dynastic team. But as a fan of baseball I’m looking forward to Darvish’s first game in the USA.