Yu Darvish...sorry, I must start this way...Yu Complete Me, God Gave Me Yu, Yu are my Shining Star, Yu Tang Clan, You is now spelled Yu, Who's pitching? Yu!
Alright, I had to get all those out of my system before I dove into this piece. By now most know that the Texas Rangers have won the bidding for the right to attempt to sign Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. If not, you read that right...$51.7MM!!! And that is just for the opportunity to talk to him, has nothing to do with the contract. Wouldn't it be nice for someone to pay big bucks just to talk to you about working for them?
But what has happened? What does it mean? And what are the Rangers options from here?
First the rules. The Texas Rangers have until 5:00 (Central) on January 18th, 2012 to work out a contract with Yu Darvish. If Texas and Yu come to terms, then he will join the team immediately, most likely in Surprise, AZ. If a deal can not be reached, then Texas receives the $51.7M back and Darvish returns to Japan and the Nippon Ham Fighters. He can then be posted again next year. That's basically the jist of what is left to happen; either he signs with the Rangers or Texas is out nothing.
I've heard different rumors on what it'll take to sign him; 1) he wants 5-6 years at $20M a year and 2) a similar contract that CJ Wilson got will do the trick (5-yr/$75M). Quick thought: the first rumor came out right before he officially posted, the second after the winning bid was announced. Based upon that, it'll likely take something closer to rumor #2 than #1.
Second, what would the addition of Darvish mean to the team? Before we talk performance, let's talk money. Assume for a second that Darvish signs for the estimated 5-yr/$75MM, everyone is going to hear time and time again that it cost not $75M, but $126.7M to sign him. Though, factually that is true...I want you to think about it for a second and follow me here. That $51.7M does NOT come out of the Rangers budget, it does NOT count against the luxury tax, and it does NOT factor into the team's payroll. That $51.7M is basically the same as a renovation to the Ballpark, but even less. That money, without knowing it's true origin, was collected from the "deep pockets." The ownership group fronted that money, and I'd bet they fronted every penny of it too. That $51.7M will NOT affect any aspect of the Rangers day-to-day operations, but instead is a statement by the ownership group that we want the best here and will pay "out of pocket" for it.
Think of it this way, over the Christmas break your family decides to go to the Bluegrass Christmas Pageant, but the day of buying tickets you discover it's $50 a person. No one wants to pay that! Instead your father drops $500 for all 10 family members to go. Doesn't cost you a dime, now you do spend money once your there on the overall experience. And let's say you spent $20. Pageant starts and it's the WORST THING EVER, everyone hates it, it's a total bust. Aside from being out the couple hours, all you spent was money on food and souvenir crap. So is it fair to say you spent $20 or $70 on the experience? If Yu works out, it's with a $75M (guessing here) contract; it has nothing to do with that one-time, owner-fronted $51.7M.
Performance...There is already a ton of people comparing Darvish to that of his predecessor's Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kei Igawa, and Hideki Irabu. Fair enough to compare him, I won't argue there. However, I will argue that this case is different. 1) Dice-K and Irabu were not tall men, though they were "big," Yu is 6'5", 220-pounds. That's how we grow our football players here in Texas! This is not a small guy who plans on getting by with his "stuff" and trickery. Leads into 2) Darvish (and check out his videos) commands his strike zone, he throws strikes, and he does it with a 95mph fastball...plus a 2-seam, curve, slider (THIS THING IS SICKENING!!!), change, gyro, and cutter. He will paint both corners of the strike zone with his heat and then throw a slider that reminds me why I don't play any more. 3) In Daniels We Trust...right? That's been the saying around Arlington for the past 3-4 years, well don't give up on him now. Daniels and his scouts (affectionally known as his super-friends) have been scouting Darvish for over a year now. In fact, Texas has had an organizational scout at EVERY single start; Daniels has made a couple of trips to see him pitch in person. Texas has done their research on the kid, this isn't some whimsical pick-up. And when Texas does it's research it brings in guys like Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz, Alexi Ogando, Elvis Andrus, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli, and some guy named Hamilton. Don't jump ship, they know what they have invested in.
Third, what can Texas do next. Again, let's assume that Darvish signs. The rotation now has 6 starters: Darvish, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando, Neftali Feliz. Don't look for a trade for another SP before the season starts, though it could happen. Instead watch for either Harrison or Ogando to return to the bullpen, all along I've said Ogando back to the 'pen. In that case: Rotation - Darvish, Lewis, Holland, Harrison, Feliz and Bullpen - Joe Nathan, Ogando, Mike Adams, Mark Lowe, Scott Feldman, and add in a LH-reliever (hopefully Mike Gonzalez) and a long-reliever.
The Rangers also have a TV contract that gets underway in 2015. Believe which rumor you want, 20-year/$1.6B or 20-year/$3B contract. Since Bob Nightengale and Maury Brown are saying $3B, I'm sold on that. Plus, it's strongly rumored that Fox Sports has fronted the team some spending money, like a bonus signing, to this contract. What does this mean? It means progressively over the next few years we "could" see the Rangers payroll jump upwards to $120MM. Sure beats the $60MM that the last owner (whose name mustn't be spoken) would only pay.
At this point I see three directions the team can go, although my disclaimer is that Daniels probably has more like a baker's dozen of directions to go that intersect each other multiple times. Seriously the guy is playing his own form of chess. Option 1 - Rangers sign Yu Darvish and that's the ony "big move," expect to see maybe a bullpen addition as well. But the team goes into 2012 with the EXACT SAME OFFENSE and a better rotation and bullpen. Sounds pretty good for the back-to-back AL Pennant winners. Option 2 - Signing Darvish looks like something that isn't going to happen, money will be the only real reason here. If this happens, look for Texas to make a quick about-face and agree to sign 1B Prince Fielder to the 7-8 year contract he desires. Thus the offense becomes 1927 Yankees dominate and the rotation does have 4 returning starters from 2011. Option 3 - (THIS ISN'T A FAIRY TALE) Texas signs BOTH Darvish and Fielder. Look back at the money, it's a legit possibility. If you do this, there are some core players who will not get extensions in the next few years, but the next two years would have both a lineup and rotation better than this franchise has ever seen or dreamed of.
In the end, I can't predict on the Fielder end right now, because I want to see the Rangers full intentions with Darvish and need to see how the Fielder market continues to develop. As for Darvish, call me a believer! I believe in this front office, I believe in Daniels and his Super-Friends, I believe in Nolan Ryan, and I believe in the commitment from the ownership group to take this team not to championship games but to create a dynasty,
I leave you this time with one final thought. There are tons and tons of baseball scouts, front office executives, talent advisors, analysts, and coaches who have seen this young man pitch and by a HUGE majority they say he is the "real deal" and worth the risk. Yes, the risk has the down side and we would suffer for it, but I feel the upside is totally worth the risk. Plus, if Darvish is what everyone says he is, if he makes the necessary adjustments to master the American game of baseball, then who better to teach him on a daily basis but Nolan Ryan, Greg Maddux, and Mike Maddux.