One month ago, the Rangers were awarded the rights to negotiate with Yu Darvish for a posting fee of $51.7 million. Surely, the announcements of the details of the contract will not come until right at the 5:00 PM Eastern Time deadline, but all indications as of now point to the Rangers reaching a six-year deal with the Japanese phenom (as reported by CBS’s Jon Heyman).
Although there are occasions where negotiations break down between Japanese imports and their American clubs — Hisashi Iwakuma with Oakland last year, for example — the big names have always agreed to a contract by the one-month deadline. For both the Rangers and for Darvish, there was simply too much at stake not to reach a middle ground.
For Darvish, the motivation is simple: money. Although he could go back to Japan and return as a free agent in another year, the opportunity to sign with the Rangers represents a chance to secure his finances for the rest of his life at age 25. Darvish was coming off a roughly $6.5 million salary in Japan and faced three more years of arbitration before being eligible for free agency. With a six-year contract, he sets himself up for the chance at a second big MLB contract at age 31, which should allow him to parlay the performance of his prime years (should he be as successful as his potential suggests) into another large payday. The intangible benefits of enjoying a career in the highest-level baseball league in the world surely play into the decision making as well.
For the Rangers, Darvish now represents their only real chance at a significant upgrade of the pitching staff. The only free agent starting pitcher of note on the market is Roy Oswalt, and between his age and injury history, his value hardly holds a candle to Darvish’s. Throw in the posting fee and, as Baseball Prospectus’s Jason Parks tweeted, the costs Nolan Ryan and the Rangers have poured into the process of scouting — both in money and other resources, like time and manpower — and the team has an equally high incentive to reach a middle ground.
Although details of this supposed contract likely will not be available until some time after the deadline passes, it would be somewhat surprising if Darvish receives an average annual payment of fewer than eight figures. Daisuke Matsuzaka received a six-year, $52 million contract in 2007 after coming over for a $51.1 million posting fee. With inflation, Darvish has a chance to rake in $72 million ($12 million per season) or more over the same time frame.
If Darvish lives up to his expectations and his projections — like ZiPS, which forecasts five seasons of sub-3.75 ERAs, 150+ strikeouts, and 4+ WAR — the investment would be a quality one for Texas. Even his middle-ground projections place him in the vicinity of excellent young pitchers like Jordan Zimmermann and Yovani Gallardo — if not a True Ace, very close to that level.
For as much as we at FanGraphs can emphasize the little deals, it is elite talent which creates winners in this league over the long term. The Rangers earned a chance to add another piece in Yu Darvish to one of the league’s biggest stockpiles of great players, and barring a last-minute breakdown, it looks like they will capitalize on it and take the next step towards solidifying their status as perennial World Series contenders.
And, best of all, now we can finally focus on watching one of the world’s most intriguing pitchers actually pitch in Major League Baseball.