Sure there are cautionary tales. The Boston Red Sox got two strong seasons out of Japanese right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka before elbow, hip and shoulder issues began. The Sox paid $51M+ for the right to negotiate with the Seibu Lions' then-26-year-old Matsuzaka, and gave him a 6-year/$52M dollar deal to come to the American League after an '06 season In Japan which saw the right-hander go (17-5) with a 2.13 ERA, 2.56 FIP and 200 K's (9.66 K/9) in 186.1 IP. Matsuzaka is (49-30) in 105 MLB starts, but he's just (16-15) in 44 starts over the last three seasons, and he's on the shelf now after having undergone Tommy John surgery.
The New York Yankees bid $26M+ for the negotiating rights with Kei Igawa, and gave the then-26-year-old left-hander a 5-year/$20M dollar deal following an 8-year career with the Nippon Professional League's Hanshin Tigers in which Igawa three times led the league in K's. Igawa was coming off an '06 season in which he was (14-9) with a 2.97 ERA and 194 K's (8.35 K/9) in 29 games and 209.0 IP. Igawa walked 37 (4.92 BB/9) and struck out 53 (7.05 K/9) in 12 starts and 67.2 IP for New York in 2007. He's made one start for the Yankees since then, playing out his contract in the Yankees' system, and was the subject of a great New York Times story by Bill Pennington this weekend which discussed the dangers of signing pitchers whose talents may or may not translate to the MLB game.
(13-2). A 1.44 ERA in 15 starts. 18 walks (1.30 BB/9) and 140 K's (10.08 K/9) in 125.0 IP. Yu Darvish, who'll turn 25 in August, comes with his own impressive resume which includes five straight seasons with a 1.something ERA (1.82 in '07, 1.88 in '08, 1.73 in 2009 and 1.78 in 2010) with over 200.0 IP in three of the last four seasons. He's led the league in K's twice, complete games three times, had the lowest ERA in the last two seasons, pitched in the Olympics for Japan in '08 and the World Baseball Classic (won by Japan) in '09.
When there was talk of Darvish jumping to the majors last winter, the Washington Nationals expressed interest and scouted the 6'5'' right-hander with Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore reporting in an article entitled, "Scouting Darvish" that, "Nationals scouts have seen Darvish pitch in person at least nine times, including several games in Japan," and recommended trying to sign him. NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman passed on reports from Japanese papers on Twitter last winter which said Arizona's D-Backs were willing to spend as much as $80 million on Darvish, with $25M of that just going to the "posting" fee that has to be paid before negotiations even begin.
Darvish ultimately decided to remain in Japan in 2011, but he's done nothing to change the perception that he's perhaps the best pitcher in the world not in Major League Baseball. When he made the announcement that he was staying this past winter, Newsday Mets beat writer David Lennon @DPLennon tweeted that, "Darvish bailed on jump to MLB this year because getting divorced. Plans to come to U.S. for '12 season, which helps #Mets chances."
The Mets will be interested. MLB.com's Texas Rangers beat writer T.R. Sullivan reported in June that the Rangers' GM Jon Daniel was in Japan watching Darvish, and MLB.com's Bill Ladson says the Nationals are also one of many teams that will likely be interested in Darvish should his oft-rumored move to MLB actually happen this time. "[The Nationals] would be foolish if [they] didn't look him," Mr. Ladson's source tells him in the article entitled, "Nats show interest in Japanese righty Darvish."
The Nationals were in on Aroldis Chapman, they signed Yunesky Maya (don't give up on Maya yet) and a Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Yu Darvish rotation has to be appealing, and more importantly, it only costs cash. Darvish will be expensive, but he's a free agent that requires no compensation other than the cash they have to give to the NIppon Ham Fighters, no compensatory picks and no setbacks to the plans for building through the draft...Just questions about how Japanese pitchers and their throwing routines and high pitch counts and innings totals affect their arms...Will the Nats take a chance? Should they?
• Why all the hype?:
• via artisticathlete on the YouTube.
(ed. note - "And yes that is Adam Dunn who K's looking in the WBC at the 1:51 mark. And seriously, those last two breaking balls?")