Washington Nationals: 2011 MLB Hot Stove... Yu Darvish? Did Nats Bid? Yoenis Cespedes, Norichika Aoki...

If, (and it seems like it's a big IF at this point), the Washington Nationals did indeed submit a substantial bid for 25-year-old Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters' right-hander Yu Darvish, they've flown under the radar thus far, with no report either way on the Nats' involvement in the posting process. The Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays are still rumored to be the frontrunners. Dallas Morning News baseball writer Evan P. Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) wrote on Twitter this morning that from what he'd heard, "The 'buzz' is that Toronto had whopper of offer on Darvish. Many reasons for Jays to bid more than $50mm. Believe Rangers bid. [Probably] in $40s." CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) wrote this afternoon that, "Signs strong Jays & Rangers did make serious bids for Yu Darvish, but could be a #mysteryteam. #Yankees bid said [to be] modest." Could the Nats be the mystery team?

In an appearance on 106.7 the FAN in D.C. Wednesday night, Mr. Heyman explained that the reason there was so little actual info about Darvish is that, "It's really a secret process. At this point there aren't agents involved so there's really nobody to yap and tell us what's going on here." Asked about the Nationals' involvement, Heyman said, "The teams that we've heard are Texas, Toronto and the Yankees. Nobody else has really come out. Since the bidding process was over I think I've seen it out there that the Cubs have bid. Nothing would surprise me here. This is a very secret process. I do think Toronto is probably the favorite looking at it."

The only comments D.C. GM Mike Rizzo has made to the press have been no-comments, with the Nats' GM telling reporters at the Winter Meetings including Washington Times' writer Amanda Comak as quoted in an article entitled, "Japanese standout pitcher Yu Darvish may be an expensive alternative for Nationals", that, "'Strategically, it doesn’t benefit us to announce if we’re going to bid or not.'" MASNSports.com's Pete Kerzel too wrote, in an article yesterday entitled, "Deadline passes, Rizzo mum on Darvish", that the Nats' GM had "sidestepped" a direct question about bidding on Darvish, reiterating that, "... it wasn't in the Nationals' interests to divulge whether they had participated in the posting process."

MLB.com's Bill Ladson wrote this morning, in an article entitled, "Nats not showing hand on potential Darvish bid", that, "The Nationals have been silent on whether or not they made a bid on Yu Darvish," but he quotes the Nationals' general manager from last week's Winter Meetings describing the 6'5'', 220lb right-hander as a, "'physical guy with stuff,'" who, "'... knows how to pitch,'" and, "'... has had success in a substantially high level of competition.'"

The Nationals scouted Darvish in 2011, Mike Rizzo's scouted Darvish in person in the past, but was Washington impressed enough to bid the $40-$50M+ that's it's going to take to win the bidding if the rumored reports are, in fact, correct. Is their silence a sign that they have made a competitive bid?

• Though some reports speculated they'd be involved, the Nats did manage to stay pretty much under the radar in the winter of '09/'10 before it was revealed that they'd actually gone hard after left-hander Aroldis Chapman.

Speaking of Chapman: While everyone's waiting to hear about who won the bidding for Yu Darvish, Yahoo!Sports.com's Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) wrote on Twitter this afternoon that the cost of acquiring soon-to-be-free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes could be just as prohibitive. "One GM said he's 'never seen a more confident agent' than Adam Katz is with Yoenis Cespedes," the Yahoo!Sports.com reporter wrote, "New CBA rules have made market even bigger."

The 26-year-old Cuban-born outfielder, who's currently in the Dominican Republic establishing his residency, and his agent are apparently looking for a big payday this winter. According to the GM he spoke to, "'They're starting at Chapman money' -- $30M -- ," Mr. Passan wrote, "'and it could go a lot higher.' Thinks a team might give six-, seven-, even eight-year deal." If that's too expensive, there's always Norichika Aoki. Did the Nationals submit a bid for the 29-year-old Yakult Swallows' outfielder? Aoki was posted four days ago, though the timetable hasn't been nearly as public in his case as it has been in Darvish's, the period during which teams can submit bids should be over soon...I'm guessing the Nats won't be saying whether they bid on Aoki either...

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