2011 MLB Winter Meetings: Yu Darvish Will Be Posted Today, Will The Washington Nationals Bid?

Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters' right-hander Yu Darvish will reportedly enter the posting process and attempt to move from Japan to the Major Leagues in 2012. (Photo © Ed Chigliak)

According to both Yu Darvish and his agent Don Nomura, the 25-year-old soon-to-be-(potentially)-former Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters' right-hander is, "... being posted tomorrow," as Mr. Nomura reported on Twitter (@DonNomura) tonight. Darvish reported the news on his own site, thanking fans for their support while announcing that he'd decided to use the posting system to try to make the move to Major League baseball after seven seasons in Hokkaido with Nippon Ham. Darvish finished what could be his final season in Japan with an (18-6) record, 10 complete games, six shutouts, a 1.44 ERA, 276 K's (10.71 K/9) and 36 BB (1.40 BB/9) in 28 starts and 232.0 IP for the Fighters.

Once he posts tomorrow, there will be a four-day period during which MLB teams bid for the right to negotiate a deal with Darvish. After the offers are in, the Nippon Ham Fighters have another four days to accept an offer. If they do, the team that wins the bidding process has thirty days to work out a deal with the pitcher who is widely considered the best pitcher outside MLB. If no deal is reached, the team's money is returned and Darvish will go back to Japan.

Rumors earlier this week had the starter ready to announce his decision to enter the posting process when the MLB Winter Meetings concluded. A report out from NikkanSports.com Wednesday night promised that Darvish would announce his decision on his own blog on Thursday. Just after 1:00 am EST Thursday morning, Darvish announced on Twitter (@faridyu) that he's made his decision. In a report from Sports Hochi earlier this week translated at Yakubaka.com, Darvish's other agent Arn Tellem told reporters that if the right-hander, "... can not get an offer that is considered 'appropriate for Japan's Ace,' they will simply withdraw from negotiations and Darvish will return to Japan in 2012."

When the Washington Nationals missed out on left-hander Mark Buehrle Wednesday night, getting outbid by the suddenly free-spending Miami Marlins, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo said the Nats would continue to pursue the rotation addition they've talked about wanting all winter. Darvish doesn't exactly match the profile of a proven veteran the Nats' general manager has spoken about wanting, and the Nationals haven't been mentioned often in connection the Darvish, but when asked what "Plan B" was after missing out on Buehrle, Rizzo told reporters (as quoted by NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman in an article entitled, "What's Plan B? Might be the status quo.") that the search would continue:

"'It could be free agent," Rizzo said. "It could be trade. It could be the international market. We're going to explore all options, as we usually do, and see if we can come up with a match.'"

Asked earlier this winter if the Nationals had scouted the Nippon Ham Fighters' right-hander, the Nationals' GM told reporters that they'd scouted Darvish in the past and had again in 2011:

"We scout every player that we have interest in. Yu Darvish, specifically, is a player that has a great talent level," Rizzo said, "We've scouted him over the years, I've scouted him personally over the years, our pro scouts have scouted him this year specifically. We've scouted the whole Japanese Professional League as well as every other international league that plays organized baseball.

"As we've always said," Rizzo continued, "We're open to acquire talent in any way, shape or form that we can, and if it's international talent, we're certainly willing to acquire international players." Asked when he last saw Darvish pitch personally, the Nats' GM said, "I haven't seen him pitch for the last two seasons, but we've seen him pitch this year, several times."

Nats' skipper Davey Johnson, who's said often he'd be happy to enter the 2012 campaign with the pitchers he has already, told MASNSports.com's Pete Kerzel earlier this week, as quoted in an article entitled, "Davey Johnson on rotation, Marrero, DeRosa, Darvish, Detwiler", that he was impressed with Darvish:

"'I like him. Big, strong, hard thrower. Actually throws a lot like Americans - you know, big, awful hard stuff. He's got good command. That's going to be an expensive deal, too, right there, but I do like him,' Johnson said."

The Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox (among others) have been mentioned often as teams with interest in Darvish. Bobby Valentine, the Red Sox' new skipper, who managed against the right-hander in Japan, was asked about Darvish in a press conference at the Winter Meetings this afternoon and told reporters he didn't know how Darvish's skills would translate to the majors:

Q: What are some of the things that you think make Yu Darvish successful in the Major Leagues if he came over here? Valentine: "I have no idea if his talents will translate at the Major League level if he came here, but he's a quality pitcher. He has size, quality, velocity, breaking balls, very good hands. He makes the ball do a lot of crazy things on its way to the plate. Great competitor. If those things translate into another uniform, whether it's another uniform in Japan, who knows?"

At least one beat writer following the Nationals think they'll make a play for Yu Darvish. Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell wrote in a recent chat that, "...the Nats have been circling Yu Darvish for about five years."

"If you are looking for Nats targets, look at Darvish," the WaPost writer wrote, "Young, hard thrower. The price would be high because of the 'posting fee" to get him from his current team. And Matsuzaka's semi-failure __relative to paying $102M for him__ has made people shy of starting pitchers from Japan. But that might help open the door a bit for the Nats. Believe me, he's been on the Kasten, Bowden, Rizzo radar for years."

If the Nats' scouts like what they've seen (and they've reportedly recommended signing Darvish in the past), will D.C. GM Mike Rizzo add the right-hander to the mix along with Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler, Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock?

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