After days full of speculation, about 60,000 puns and completely and totally unnecessary waiting, the Nippon Ham Fighters have finally accepted the winning bid in the posting for Japanese ace pitcher Yu Darvish. And the winner is... the Texas Rangers!
Yes, the same Rangers who tried so very hard to play coy about their interest in Darvish won the bidding, and did so in grand fashion, setting a new posting record with a bid of $51.7 million. Yeah, turns out they really wanted Darvish after all. Well, now they have him, or at least the rights to try and sign him, which they now have 30 days to do. If they don't, they don't have to pay the Nippon Ham Fighters anything, but that is a highly unlikely scenario.
With a bid that big, the Rangers mean business and getting cheap now doesn't make any sense. That's great news for Darvish, because if his posting fee beat the previous record set when the Red Sox got Daisuke Matsuzaka, then it stands to reason that Darvish will be getting a bigger contract than the six-year, $52 million pact that Dice-K got. That's an awfully big gamble for the Rangers to make, but Darvish seems like a relatively safe investment.
He's young, just 25 years old. He's big (6'5"), strong and athletic, unlike the doughy Dice-K. He's proven himself against top competition in the World Baseball Classic. The general consensus is that he is at worst a mid-rotation starter, but probably a pretty good #2 with a chance at becoming a legit ace. The latter is what Texas has to be hoping for.
After losing in the World Series two years in a row, Texas is trying to find a way to push themselves over the top. After failing to get quality performances out of C.J. Wilson, the previous de facto staff ace, Nolan Ryan has to be thinking that his team needs a new face to front his rotation, one that hopefully won't melt under the post-season pressure. If Darvish can do that, then spending what is sure to be at least $100 million total over the next six years, will be well worth it. If not, then one might have to question whether or not the Rangers should have saved about $25 million and just kept Wilson, who is at least a known quantity.
Of course, with an AL West team spending this kind of big money, there is the inevitable comparison to the recent big spending of the Angels. Some will say that this is Texas "responding" to the Pujols signing. That might be a minor motivation, but this smacks more of the Rangers just looking to patch up a chink in their armor. Now, if they go out and bring in Prince Fielder too, then we can start talking about dueling spending sprees.
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