• If Yu Darvish is leaving Japan this year, after his seventh season pitching for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, the 25-year-old right-hander couldn't have picked a better time to cross over to the majors. Though there was some speculation (from NPB Tracker's sources) that Darvish "is still undecided" about making the jump to Major League Baseball there was an article earlier this weekend in the Mainichi Shimbun 毎日新聞, or The Mainichi Daily News which wikipedia tells me, "... is one of the major newspapers in Japan," which quotes Nippon Ham Fighters' owner Hiroji Okoso discussing his, "readiness to respect Yu Darvish's decision if the ace wants to pitch in the major leagues in the near future."
The owner notes that it isn't something he can discuss while the season's still going, but the reporter notes that, "An increasing number of major league scouts are in Japan to follow the 25-year-old right-hander this year." The NBP Tracker writer's sources suggested that it might be the team rather than Darvish that want, "... to post their ace, wanting to cash in on an obvious payday, while Darvish himself is still undecided."
The 6'5'', 175 lb right-hander set a career high in wins when he earned his 17th win of 2011 with an eight-inning, 12 K outing last week. Darvish is now (17-5) in 27 starts, with nine complete games, five shutouts, and a career high 261 K's (10.53 K/9) in a career-high 223 IP in which he's walked just 35 (1.41 BB/9). Darvish leads the Japanese Pacific League in IP, K's (by 31 K's), has the second-lowest ERA and the second-most wins.
MLBTraderumors.com listed seven teams who are said to have interest in pursuing Darvish should he become available for teams to bid on through the "posting" process which has teams submit bids for the rights to negotiate contracts with Japanese Professional Baseball players who aren't yet free agents. USA Today writer Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) reported on Twitter that, "Rival teams are predicting that the #Rangers will be the winners in the Darvish derby, with every scout predicting stardom."
MLB.com writer Gregor Chisolm spoke to Toronto Blue Jays' GM Alex Anthopolous about a scouting trip to Japan for an article entitled, "Anthopoulos scouts Darvish in Japan", in which the Jays' general manager spoke openly about the reason he traveled to Japan on a fact-finding mission, "'But there's no question, he's the reason that I went. I can sit here and [joke], say I went there to experience the culture, or build relationships. But if he hadn't pitched I wouldn't have gone, at least not in 2011.'"
Anthopolous also provides interesting thoughts the GM's side, in trying to explain how a team goes about deciding to get into the sure-to-be-expensive posting process:
"'You just have to come up with a value, like we do with everything,' Anthopoulos said of the posting process. 'You take the emotion out of it, you come up with what you're willing to spend on a player.
"'That's how you come up with your math. How much would you pay in salary? How much would you pay in a post? You combine that, but that's the commitment the club is going to make.'"
As Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore reported last winter the, "Nationals scouts have seen Darvish pitch in person at least nine times, including several games in Japan." This past July, MLB.com's Bill Ladson wrote about the Nats' continued interest in Darvish. ESPN.com's Buster Olney, a few weeks back in an article entitled, "Last-minute deals have postseason impact", quoted a "high-ranked official" who said he or she was sure that Yu Darvish would join an MLB team next year. "'He's coming [to the U.S.],'" Mr. Olney quoted the official stating, "'And he's going to be expensive.'"
Last season NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman wrote about reports from Japanese papers which said the Arizona Diamondbacks were willing to spend as much $80 million on Darvish, with $25M of that just going to the "posting" fee. Why all the interest in Darvish? A "former MLB hitter" quoted in an article by Asahi.com's Rob Smaal entitled, "NPB/ Get ready for an MLB arms race", attempted to explain the interest:
"He's got a fastball, cutter, changeup and curve, and they're all good," says one former MLB hitter who has faced Darvish in interleague play here. "He throws hard, 95 (mph, 153 kph). He's a legitimate MLB pitcher and he'd be the No. 1 starter on a lot of teams."
Will D.C. GM Mike Rizzo shock the baseball world again and outbid the big spenders around the league? If they are interested, you likely won't hear much about if from Rizzo's "leak-proof" front office as Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell reiterated this weekend, writing, in an article entitled, "What the Washington Nationals can learn from the Philadelphia Phillies’ mistakes", that it's been the case, "Ever since he got the GM job,":
"Rizzo’s trademark has been the shock announcement. Nobody knew he was in the hunt for Aroldis Chapman (near miss) or [Jayson] Werth until those deals were done."
Rizzo also signed Yunesky Maya, a highly-regarded international free agent who is currently serving as a cautionary tale about how stats outside major league baseball translate to the MLB game. It's a thin free agent pitching market this winter, with C.J. Wilson standing out above the rest as the most-discussed option for teams willing to pay for an "elite-level" arm. Could Yu Darvish fit the need the Nationals have for a front-end starter to pitch alongside Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, or is it too big a risk?
• Not Convinced? Have another look at Yu Darvish:
• via coke750101 on the YouTube.