Yu Darvish’s Landing Spot

Yesterday, Eno Sarris covered the potential cost of Yu Darvish by using Major League comps, eventually settling on a Jordan Zimmermann comp to go along with the $100 million price tag. While this is certainly not a financial commitment for the faint of heart, the rumour mill is saying that the Blue Jays have submitted the top bid for the Japanese star. However, Nippon Ham is under no obligation to take the highest bid, and there have been rumors swirling around the Rangers as well. While we will find out who the official winner is by Tuesday, let’s take a preliminary look at how Darvish would fit on these two teams, and which fit is best.

The Rangers have won 186 regular season games over the last two seasons, winning the American League Pennant both years to go along with a pair of AL West titles. Last year’s team remains largely intact, with ace C.J. Wilson the only major loss. However, this does leave a serious hole in the team’s rotation. The franchise does have a couple of potential elite arms in the minors in Martin Perez and Tanner Scheppers, but they have combined for just 69.2 innings in Triple-A, with Scheppers battling injuries. Michael Kirkman also no longer appears to be an option after pitching primarily out of the bullpen in Triple-A and with the big club last season.

That being said, the Rangers still have four very good arms in their rotation in Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando and Colby Lewis. Unfortunately, there was a game-changer last week. Their main competition in the AL West, the Los Angeles Angels, signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. Last season, the Angels finished only 10 games back of the Rangers, and have probably added that many wins with Pujols and Wilson alone. That is before even mentioning a full season from Mike Trout, the return of Kendrys Morales, and potential trade returns from their glut of infielders. The Rangers front office is one of the last I would expect to make a rash decision and throw a bunch of money at Darvish to counter the Angels’ aggressive spending, but it’s hard to get that type of thought out of your head.

While there are still some good pitchers available on the open market like Hiroki Kuroda, Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt, none of them quite offer the intrigue of Darvish. On the other hand, the Rangers are in win-now mode with Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Ian Kinsler set to become free agents over the next two seasons. It may be wise to go after an older, but more proven arm like Kuroda or Oswalt. Neither of these two offer the upside of Darvish, especially long term, but are probably a safer bet if the Rangers are serious about winning the World Series next year. Given the current composition of their club, Darvish is a good, but not great, fit for the Rangers.

The Blue Jays are an even more curious fit, and are hard to read due to the fact that they have been tied to basically every semi-available player in baseball. Since Anthopolous took over, they have been stock-piling draft picks and minor league talent with an eye on the future. A big financial commitment to Darvish would indicate that this future is imminent. This isn’t to say that the Jays don’t have the talent to compete with the big boys in the AL East, because they are close, but it seems that starting pitching isn’t the most pressing area of need, certainly not at a $100 million price tag. While the current MLB rotation of Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero, Henderson Alvarez and Brett Cecil isn’t exactly a murderer’s row, there is a ton of talent in the minors between Deck McGuire, Asher Wojciechowski, Drew Hutchison and former top prospect Kyle Drabek. Further down the line, Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, Daniel Norris and Kevin Comer are promising prospects. Of course, pitching is extremely volatile and a lot can go wrong between now and when these guys are potentially ready for the majors, but that is a lot more depth than most teams.

Compare this to glaring needs at first base, left field, and potentially second base depending on what happens with Kelly Johnson. Over the last two seasons, the Jays have received essentially nothing from 1B/DH thanks to Adam Lind and his wOBAs of .309 and .315. There is also no long-term option in the minor- league system. Something like $100 million could go a long way to shoring up the position this off-season (Prince), or in the future. In left field, Travis Snider has underperformed with a career .318 wOBA but is still only 23 years old, while Eric Thames isn’t expected to be much more than a 1.5 WAR player.

There is of course the chance that the Rogers-backed Jays have enough money to add Darvish and fill their other needs, or that they think highly enough of Darvish that they would be willing to move some of their other pitching prospects for some bats when the time comes. At first glance it would appear that the Jays would be jumping in a year too early with a Darvish acquisition, but Anthopolous certainly isn’t one to pass on an opportunity when he thinks he can improve his team.

There is also the financial aspects to consider. A Darvish signing would electrify Jays fans across the country who have been waiting for a marquee free agent to land in Toronto for a long time. Given the Blue Jays massive potential television market, this isn’t insignificant. There is also a financial benefit overseas to having a Japanese star. The Mariners and Yankees are the biggest MLB teams in Japan due largely in part to the presence of Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui on those rosters. That is certainly something to think about when comparing Darvish to other players.

Overall, it appears that while the Rangers make sense, there are a few other players that can help them capture that elusive World Series title. In Toronto, the window is a bit bigger, so the 25-year-old Darvish would help the Blue Jays compete next year and in 2016. It’s usually easier to trade for hitting, so if Anthopolous sees something in Darvish that he really likes, it’s hard to doubt him given what he has accomplished thus far in his career.

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64 Responses to “Yu Darvish’s Landing Spot”

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  1. Grammar Police says:

    “A big financial commitment to Darvish would indicate that this future is eminent.”

    Imminent, not eminent. Citation issued.

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  2. tdotsports1 says:

    Toronto has a pretty large asian population base (though mostly Chinese) who for the most part (pardon the horrible sterotype) are fairly tech savvy. With Rogers owning the Jays this could be a “bigger than baseball” grab if they can sign a guy who can reach out to a huge non-baseball market THRU baseball.

    Just a thought.

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    • tdotsports1 says:

      oh, and having a guy who could potentially become an ace wouldn’t hurt either! ;)

      I can’t speak for all Jays fans but I am pretty sure they are all hoping this signing comes to fruition if for nothing else will definitely add some excitement/hype to a town CRAVING it.

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      • Greg H says:

        Wow. Your comment reminds me of a quote by Walter O’Malley, discussing the popularity of the Dodgers after moving to LA. “All those years in Brooklyn, we wanted a big Jewish star. How that would have helped our attendance. But we couldn’t find one. I come out here and everything works so well that I could fill the ballpark with nine Chinamen. And what do I get? Sandy Koufax.”

        Although times have changed, I suppose it’s possible that Paul Beeston or AA may share Walter O’Malley’s views on race and baseball fans. But it’s really disturbing to think so.

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      • tdotsports1 says:

        Pretty sure corporations are using fairly extensive demographic research and this has been discussed at length in the boardroom prior to giving AA permission to bid on Darvish.

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    • I can definitely buy the tech argument. Every dollar makes a difference.

      And what’s wrong, an exciting season of Raptors basketball starring DeMar DeRozan and…. little help…. anyone… doesn’t pump the city up?

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      • sc2gg says:

        We Canadian sports fans don’t need DeMar DeRozan to pump us up, we’ve got Colby Rasmus.

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      • Adrock says:

        I think AA views LF and 1B as the two easiest holes to fill on any roster, with some combination of Lind/Encarnacion/Thames/Snider passable for 2012, with Snider/Thames and some combination of prospects sufficient bait to land a strong 1B or LF bat, if only as a rental if the Jays contend next year.

        As to 2nd base, Johnson should be fine for 2012 at least. If Hechevarria progresses then Escobar could move over and play second. If he doesn’t, re-signing Johnson or another trade from the depth of minor league arms should land someone capable.

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      • tdotsports1 says:

        I am actually looking forward to the Raptors completely tanking and getting another good draft pick (who will want to leave in 5 years).

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    • Awesome says:

      AA to Rodgers “Let’s see 86 million off the books for Vernon Wells, 4 years of a 4 WAR SS for 2 million less than Jose Reyes makes in 2015(not guaranteed mind you club options) whom I acquired with a 5th starter for a 34 yo SS, a 5’7″ LHP and a SS in high A ball, 9 supplemental picks in in the 2010/11 drafts, about 100 million dollar discount on the Bautista Contract, getting a 24 yo CF who was the #3 prospect in 09 and had a .860 OPS in 2010 for essentially a minorleague arm, and some bullpen pieces, getting 6 years of a 3B who had a .460 wOBA in AAA and was on a 10 WAR pace as Rookie for two years of a solid #3 starter in Marcum… Can I have Darvish?…and a raise?”

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      All asian people are alike! I can’t tell the difference between Japanese people and Chinese people! Kung Pow Chicken! Asian people like technology! Chop Suey!

      If the belief signing Yu would increase attendance of local Chinese-Canadians was even 1% of the reason AA made the bid, he deserves to be fired for being a complete moran.

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      • tdotsports1 says:

        Yu, are an idiot.

        A lot of reports out of Toronto that this move was possibly mandated by Rogers.

        Nice try though.

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      • Smartypants says:

        nice job spelling moron wrong you tool.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        Fine, if Rogers mandated the move because he thought Chinese-Canadians will give a shit whether or not a Japanese player is on the team, he deserves to continuously finish in 4th place for being a moran (I purposely used it).

        You do realize, generally speaking, China and Japan have a long history of not being particularly fond of each other right? Your argument is racist. Would it make any sense to claim French-Canadians would care if the Blue Jays signed a German player? No. Why do you think Chinese people would care about Japanese players (who are much more culturally disparate)? Because you can’t tell the difference between them?

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      • pft says:

        Chinese from Taiwan are big baseball fans and tend to like the Japanese, since they avoided the Japanese atrocities of the WWII era and a lot of older Taiwanese have fond memories of the occupation years and Japanese that ended after WW II.

        Not sure what the breakdown is among Canadian Chinese immigrants (Taiwa/HK/mainland), but I thought it was more heavily weighted toward HK Chinese as a result of their more lenient immigration policies in the runup to 1997 .

        HK and mainland Chinese tend not to be baseball fans. HK sports interests tend to mimic the British. Although I imagine 2nd and 3rd generation Canadians might be fans as they adopt local interests. Also, neither are big fans of Japanese due to their experiences in WWII and I would think they are unlikely to be overly excited about a Japanese player in Toronto.

        As for Yu’s impact on TV ratings in Canada, Yu will only pitch every 5 games.

        As for Japanese revenues, while Seattle (Ichiro) and the Yankees (Matsui) had every game broadcast on NKK and presumably got some nice revenues from this. Yu, like Daisuke only pitches every 5 games, only 1/2 at home, so the revenues for 16-32 games (NKK could buy rights from other teams for games played outside of Toronto) are unlikely to amount to much. Jerseys and hats bought in Japan are shared revenue among all MLB teams. I imagine there are some stadium advertising dollars to be had.

        Wang was from Taiwan and even though he pitched only every 5 games Taiwan adopted the Yankees and broadcast every game. But Taiwan is a much smaller market that Japan.

        So unless Yu is of mainland Chinese descent, in which case the Yao effect might kick in. I don’t see Yu generating much revenues over and above the revenues that will be generated by making Toronto a better team.

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  3. Marc says:


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  4. j-Martin says:

    I think the author summed it up with this:

    …or that they think highly enough of Darvish that they would be willing to move some of their other pitching prospects for some bats when the time comes.

    AA is stockpiling. Here he can add without giving away anything (but cash*) and have even more arms to swap for bats when they come available.

    * Rogers won’t mind the cost. More than the butts-in-the-seats theory I think the possible japanese TV deal, for a media company, would be tantalizing.

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  5. I wonder if Darvish will be allowed a say in the matter. For instance, if the difference in posting bids is small, Darvish could make up the difference himself in order to choose the team he wants to play for.

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    • AA says:

      They have no choice. The Japanese team gets the highest bid from the MLB and has no idea what team submitted the bid. They choose to accept or decline. They can’t choose between bid A and bid B. They must choose the highest bid, or none at all.

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      • Greg says:

        “has no idea what team submitted the bid”

        Well that’s the theory. But how that was ever supposed to stay a secret for almost a week is beyond me.

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      • chuckb says:

        Can the rights to Darvish be traded? If so, they’d have to be worth a ton. What would the Yankees, Red Sox, or Rangers give up for the right to pay Darvish something like a 5 year, $50 M contract?

        It would effectively mean that the Jays would have bought several good players/prospects and that bounty would have to be substantial in order to justify the $50M or so posting fee.

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      • Geoff says:

        They actually in theory do not have to choose the highest bid, if they don’t like money, they can choose the 2nd highest bid. Although there really is no reason not to take the highest bid since they don’t know which bid belongs to which team.

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  6. cpebbles says:

    The only bid even conveyed to Nippon Ham is the top bid, and I don’t believe they even know for sure which team it is.

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  7. Robin Shapiro says:

    “…the Blue Jays have submitted the top bid for the Japanese star. However, Nippon Ham is under no obligation to take the highest bid, and there have been rumors swirling around the Rangers as well.”

    Where did this come from? Everything I’ve heard about the posting system is that it is a silent auction with Nippon learning only the amount of the highest bid (not even the team’s name). If Toronto submitted the highest bid wouldn’t they automatically receive the rights to negotiate?

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    • I have heard that the Japanese team has the option in order eliminate the possibility of a team bidding the highest just to block the player from coming over to a rival team. The Japanese team can select another team if they do not think the highest bidder acted in good faith.

      There were some accusations last season that Oakland did this, I believe.

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      • Mick in Ithaca says:

        I don’t think that NH Fighters can do this willy-nilly, just deciding that the bid they’re given is not authentic or serious. What I think would happen, in the event that the high-bidding team does not bargain in good faith (and presumably that would be in the judgment of MLB rather than the Fighters), is that Selig would step in and offer the 2nd highest bid to NHF instead.

        What happens if Darvish doesn’t bargain in good faith is something about which I have no idea. But I see it as a possibility if, say, Toronto has won the bidding but he doesn’t want to play there, no matter what they offer.

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      • Fred says:

        Ryan I don’t believe that to be true.

        How could they know in advance the team is acting in bad faith… the winning bid would at least have to be allowed to start the negotiations in order to assess/determine bad faith.

        What makes this further unlikely to be true is the team in theory doesn’t know what MLB team made the bid… just the amount. So we are to believe they can make assessment of bad faith simply based on the amount of the bid, before negotiations even start?

        Similarly they would not in theory know who had the second highest bid either (nor the amount), yet they could determine that’s a good faith bid?

        I tend to agree with Mick… negotiations would have to start,breakdown and it would need to be an obvious lowball offer, and at that point MLB/NPB would have to create some special dispensation after the fact.

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      • MattAtBat says:

        Per Kevin Goldstein on twitter:
        “They can’t do that. RT @freepeterose: @Kevin_Goldstein possible that Nippon selects a bid other than the highest?”

        Goldstein also makes the point that the Japanese team only sees the amount, not the identity of the bidding team.

        I’ve got no idea what is accurate, but I’d be interested to know.

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  8. Erix says:

    I’m disappointed to see no mention of Feliz in this article when mentioning the Rangers’ rotation

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  9. Jason Bishop says:

    I don’t know, I think even with all those arms on the farm the Jays could still use a starter, as well as a LF, 1B, DH, and backup catcher who gets on base more than my grandma. If they did get Darvish, then some portion of those myriad of baby pitchers could be spun for someone who can actually hit the ball while fielding the right side of the diamond… well, not literally while fielding, but during the same game in which the field… or something.

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  10. Thomas says:

    I think one thing that makes this reasonable for the Jays is Darvish isn’t a typical big free agent signing. He’s only 25, so if he’s anywhere as good as advertized, the Jays won’t be overpaying at the end of the contract. They can sign him with an eye on 2 or 3 years from now.

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  11. James says:

    “However, Nippon Ham is under no obligation to take the highest bid”

    Not true. From this Biz of Baseball article: http://bizofbaseball.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5553:demystifying-the-posting-system-for-japanese-players-entering-mlb&catid=26:editorials&Itemid=39

    10) At the conclusion of the bidding period, the U.S. Commissioner shall determine the highest bidder among the U.S. Major League Clubs and that determination of the highest bidder shall be conclusive and binding on all parties. The U.S. Commissioner then shall notify the Japanese Commissioner of the amount of the bid submitted by the successful bidder, and the Japanese Commissioner will have four (4) business days to notify the U.S. Commissioner of whether that bid is acceptable to the Japanese Club involved.

    11) If the highest bid is not acceptable to the Japanese Club making the Japanese Player available, the Japanese Player’s posting will be withdrawn and another request for posting with respect to that Japanese Player shall be prohibited until the following November 1. If the highest bid is acceptable to the Japanese Club, the U.S. Commissioner shall award the sole, exclusive, and non-assignable right to negotiate with and sign the posted Japanese Player to the U.S. Major League Club that submitted the highest bid.

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    • pft says:

      “to notify the U.S. Commissioner of whether that bid is acceptable to the Japanese Club involved”

      So if the posting is not acceptable Darvish pitches for 1 more year with Nippon and then goes as a FA.

      Where is the obligation to accept the Blue Jays bid?

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      • cpebbles says:

        Try to play semantics all you like, but the article clearly argues (wrongly) that Nippon Ham has the right to pick other teams’ offers.

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  12. Matt says:

    Isn’t Edwin Encarnacion and his .344 wOBA good enough to start in LF/DH for 2012?
    With ~30 million in payroll available, Prince to Toronto could make that team scary good and competitive in the AL east.

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  13. TimberLee says:

    If they have to choose among “the U.S. Major League clubs”, then the Jays are disqualified from the beginning.

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  14. Jordan says:

    I disagree somewhat with your analysis of this signing from the Jays perspective. Most top tier FA’s, who are past their peak and often have backloaded contracts, wouldn’t make sense for a team in the Jays’ position. But about half of the cost of signing Yu would be paid up front, and he’s still a couple of years away from his peak, so (if he pans out) he should be a bargain in terms of $/year for the duration of his contract. Signing Yu is another way of paying now for future wins, with the added bonus that it makes the 2012 Jays better as well.

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    • Awesome says:

      I think that Yu certainly profiles as the kind of guy who can make the jump to MLB, and his talent is likely more in the Ichiro tier than in the Kaz Matsui tier

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    • Darvish has thrown nearly 1,300 professional innings already. Not many 25-year-olds do that. Who’s to say he hasn’t already peaked?

      Just saying, that’s a lot of mileage for someone only 25.

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  15. pft says:

    Blue Jays don’t have to sign Darvish, blocking him from the Yankees is a win already for them. If they do sign him, well, a lot depends on how well he does before you can assess it. Given the uncertainty of projecting Japanese pitchers, it’s a bit of a roll of the dice (no pun intended Daisuke).

    Darvish looks like a pitcher (tall and he filled out over the past year), is younger and less abused than Daisuke, and should not have small hand syndrome that made it difficult for Daisuke to adjust to the MLB ball. Needs some work on his secondary pitchers to be an elite starter though, but he is young.

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  16. Ryan Bones says:

    The ball used in japan in 2011 was the same size as the one used in MLB. In previous years, this wasn’t the case. Darvish should have no trouble moving to MLB, as his avg number of pitches per week was similar to an average MLB’er. More pitches in less games.

    If the jays won the bid, in my book they’re instantly the wildcard favorite if they get above average pitching from Alvarez and Morrow.

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  17. Cooperstown2009 says:

    I just think Darvish will be glad to leave a team with such a god-awful name.

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  18. bluejaysstatsgeek says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rogers/Jays can earn back half the value of Darvish’s contract just in merchandise. There will be 50 Japanese reporters following the Jays and they’ll be widely followed in Japan.

    The bigger ethnic appeal in Toronto would be the Persian community, approximately 65,000 strong in the Toronto area.

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  19. exxrox says:

    As a 17 billion dollar (yea 17 billion) international multimedia empire, Rogers would absolutely LOVE to advertise its shit to the tech-savvy Japanese culture. What better way to do that than to have all of your games televised in that country?

    Reports are that brass told AA to sign Darvish “at all costs”. this shows that they are far more interested in the business side of things that Darvish brings compared to what he would bring to other teams with similar on-field needs.

    I remember a couple months back, Cameron wrote an article comparing giving a rookie this much money to Tim Lincecum, concluding that he would never be worth it and that teams shouldn’t bother. I don’t think that that analysis applies to the Jays’ situation, however.

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  20. james wilson says:

    Maybe whoever gets him should market baseball to 200 million Brazilians.

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  21. Scott says:

    This author is dreaming if he thinks AA or any other GM can convince Scott Boras to sign a deal for $100 m for Fielder. When has a Boras client ever left significant $ on the table? Fielder would cost the Jays twice as much as Darvish.

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