Yu Darvish has reportedly
agreed to a six-year, $60 million contract with the Texas Rangers. The deal includes bonuses that could be worth another $10 million.
After outbidding the Blue Jays, among other teams, for the negotiating rights to the Japanese right-hander by submitting a $51,703,411 posting fee, the total outlay for the Rangers will be at least $111 million. Darvish immediately becomes one of the highest-costing ($18.5 million AAV) pitchers in MLB (though not one of the highest-paid).
The deal, agreed to just minutes before the 5 p.m. EST deadline, is not surprising, as it was widely expected that Darvish would sign. His best alternative was to return to the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) for 2012 and 2013, after which he would have become a true free agent with all MLB teams able to bid for his services.
Darvish is considered the best Japanese pitcher ever to make the leap to MLB, a group that includes Hideo Nomo, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Hiroki Kuroda, among others. Over his first three seasons, Nomo posted a 3.34 ERA in 627 IP, though wasn’t very effective after that. Matsuzaka, who in 2007 signed with the Red Sox on a six-year, $52 million contract (not including the $51.11 million Boston paid for the negotiating rights), had two solid seasons, but has struggled with command and health since then. Kuroda has been the best of the crop, having signed a three-year, $35.3 million contract with the Dodgers in December of 2007. Since then, Kuroda has a 3.35 ERA over 699 IP and just signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Yankees.
In 2007, it was widely believed that Matsuzaka would be able to make a smooth transition into MLB. As we know, that hasn't happened. Darvish, however, posted significantly better numbers than Matsuzaka in the NPB: he had a better ERA (he hadn’t posted an ERA above 2.00 since 2007), better strikeouts and walks figures, and generated more groundballs. He also throws harder (low- to mid-90s), and is said to be better built (taller, more athletic) to handle a 200-inning workload. Many talent evaluators project him as at least a number-two starter (perhaps an ace) on a good team in MLB. Still, with Japanese pitchers, you never know. As I mentioned, very few Japanese starters have made the transition to MLB with sustained success. Though, Darvish is said to easily be the most talented of the group.
We’ll keep you updated as more information becomes available.
: Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweeted
that Darvish can opt out of the contract after the fifth year.