• Yu And The Nats - A Recap: When he was asked if the Washington Nationals had scouted 25-year-old Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters' right-hander Yu Darvish this year, and what he thought about getting involved in the posting process that allows Nippon Professional Baseball players to move to Major League Baseball before they've reached free agency, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told reporters in an October 26th teleconference that the Nats had scouted Darvish and they were interested.
"We scout every player that we have interest in," Rizzo said at the time, "Yu Darvish, specifically, is a player that has a great talent level. 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." Rizzo said that he hadn't personally traveled to Japan to watch Darvish pitch this past season as the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays' GMs reportedly had. "I haven't seen him pitch for the last two seasons," Rizzo explained, "but we've seen him pitch this year, several times."
After an (18-6) 2011 season in which he made 28 starts and threw 232.0 IP for the Fighters with 10 complete games, six of them shutouts, a sub-2.00 ERA (1.44) for the fifth-straight season, a total of 276 K's (10.71 K/9) and just 36 walks (1.40 BB/9), Darvish was posted last week. The right-hander announced the decision on his own blog just after 1:00 am EST last Thursday and the clock started on the four-day period for teams to submit offers to MLB before tomorrow's 5:00 pm EST deadline.
At the recently-concluded Winter Meetings, Rizzo was noncommittal when asked again if the Nats intended to submit a bid for the Nippon Ham hurler. Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore quoted the GM in an article entitled, "Yu Darvish will be posted, and the Nationals are interested", telling reporters that, "'Strategically, that doesn’t benefit us to announce whether we’re going to bid or not on him. We’ve scouted him. We like him. We recognize his ability levels.'" With less than 24 hours before the deadline to submit bids, it's unclear just how many teams are in the Darvish market.
According to what FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote this morning, though their GM did travel to Japan and they've reportedly scouted Darvish extensively, the Texas Rangers are not going to go hard for Darvish. The bow-tied FOXSports.com reporter says Texas is focused on trading for the pitcher they're after this winter. Yahoo!Sports.com's Jeff Passan wrote about Darvish in his "10 Degrees" column this morning, noting that with the deadline to submit bids approaching, sources say the Darvish camp is warning against submitting a high posting fee that subtracts from the contract the winning team will have to negotiate with the right-hander.
Darvish's father discussed their issues with the posting system with the Japanese media, telling reporters (as translated at Yakubaka.com), "If you spend a lot of money on the posting fee, there is a chance negotiations will not go well because that amount (or close to it) is deducted from the salary." This approach, according to reports, stems from a distaste for the posting process itself which rewards the team that posts the players at the player's expense, in a literal sense. A free agent would get all the money an interested team offered, whereas they'll likely receive less after an exorbitant posting fee.
How soon after tomorrow's 5:00 pm EST deadline to submit bids the winning bidder will be announced is unclear. The posting period for 29-year-old Seibu Lions' infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima ended on December 3rd, but the New York Yankees weren't announced as the team that had won the rights to negotiate with Nakajima until four days later. The Nippon Ham Fighters will be informed of the highest bid tomorrow, but not which team made it and they too will have four days to decide if they accept it. If they do, the winning team and the right-hander have 30 days to work out a deal. So it's just the first step of the process ending Wednesday afternoon. Will the Nats end up a runner-up again like they did in the bidding for Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman and more recently Mark Buehrle, or will last winter's Nationals re-emerge to outbid the rest of baseball for Darvish as they did for Jayson Werth?
• Feel positive about the Nats' chances of landing Darvish?
Then you'd better learn the Yu Darvish Cheer Song -- (h/t at Nats Enquirer):