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Will Washington Nationals Pursue Yu Darvish...If He's Posted?

If Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters' right-hander Yu Darvish decides to enter into the posting process that allows him to transfer from Nippon Professional Baseball to the Major Leagues, he likely won't make the announcement until after the Nippon Series between the Softbank Hawks and Chunichi Dragons, which started last night and could extend to the 20th of November. As reporters at noted recently, the NPB's Pacific League honored the 25-year-old pitcher this past week, recognizing Darvish, "... for becoming the first pitcher in either league to record ERA's under 2.00 five years straight."

The 6'5'' starter finished his seventh season with Nippon-Ham with an (18-6) record, 10 complete games, six shutouts, a 1.44 ERA, 276 K's (10.71 K/9), 36 BB (1.40 BB/9), 5 HR's and 42 runs (37 ER) allowed in 28 starts and 232.0 IP.'s Keith Law listed Darvish 3rd overall (as the top pitcher) on his list of the "Top 50 free agents" earlier this week, writing that though the Fighters' righty has thrown seven pitches in Japan, in the majors, "He could strip down to the fastball, shuuto, one slider and a changeup or splitter, and be more effective because he's junked his worst offerings." The former Toronto Blue Jays' scout and exec says Darvish, "... is built like an ace, with ace stuff, but has been worked hard over the past few years," and will have to reverse the recent trend of relative disappointing transitions made by fellow NPB pitchers whose moves to the majors haven't worked out as expected. 

The Yankees, whose $26M+ bid and 5-year/$20M dollar deal with Japanese lefty Kei Igawa is often cited as a cautionary tale in discussions about Darvish, are still interested in the right-hander with New York Post writer George King writing earlier this week in an article entitled, "Buehrle could become Yankees’ top target'", that while New York is interested in White Sox' lefty Mark Buehrle over C.J. Wilson, they could pass on both and, "... prioritize 25-year-old Darvish and wait on other arms until that puzzle is solved."

One-time Montreal Expos' 2nd Round pick and Washington Nationals' starter Darrell Rasner, who's pitched against Darvish in the Pacific League for the last three seasons told New York Daily News writer Anthony McCarron last weekend in an article entitled, "Yu Darvish, who has been tearing up Japan's Pacific League, could be bringing his big-time arm to the major leagues", that Darvish is, "'... the real deal. He’s the best pitcher there, in my opinion, and he’d do well in the States. He’s got a winning mentality.'" 

Current-Los Angeles Dodgers' bench coach Trey Hillman, who managed Darvish from 2005-2008 with Nippon Ham, told New York Newsday writer Anthony Rieber this weekend in another Darvish article entitled, "Who is Yu Darvish, and is he worth pursuing?", that he believes there are several reasons why Darvish might succeed where other recent Japanese pitchers have struggled:

"'His frame, first of all. His size. Just physically, he's powerful. He can really spin a ball. He's got real big hands for different adjustments with grips. I think it's going to give him a chance to handle the more slippery American ball better than some Japanese pitchers have. High velocity. His pitch repertoire. And on top of that, he's exceptionally competitive. He loves to compete.'"

Former major leaguer CJ Nitkowski (who pitched in Japan) is quoted in the article too, offering the opinion that Darvish, "'... probably carries some of the lowest risk of any of the pitchers to come from Japan in regard to the question of whether or not his stuff will play in MLB.'" 

D.C. GM Mike Rizzo talked to Sirius/XM MLB Network hosts Jim Bowden and Casey Stern on Wednesday afternoon about the Nationals' interest in free agent pitchers like Buerhle, Wilson and Roy Oswalt explaining why each appealed to the Nats. Rizzo also admitted recently that Washington had scouted Yu Darvish this year, though the GM said he hadn't seen the right-hander in person in over two seasons. As Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell wrote this week in a chat with readers, however, "...the Nats have been circling Yu Darvish for about five years."

"If you are looking for Nats targets, look at Darvish," the WaPost writer continued after explaining how Darvish-obsessed former Nats' team President Stan Kasten had been, "Believe me, he's been on the Kasten, Bowden, Rizzo radar for years." Are the Nationals operating under the radar again in pursuit of Darvish? The Washington Post writer refers to the GM elsewhere in the chat as, " Mike (Run Silent) Rizzo." The Nationals shocked the baseball world last winter by signing Jayson Werth to a staggeringly large contract. Can they take the top international arm off the market this winter and make another splash? As soon as Darvish makes a decision this is going to get interesting.