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December 20, 2011

Transaction Analysis

Yu Got Questions? Yu Got Answers.

by Kevin Goldstein

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TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Announced as the top bidder for Nippon Ham Fighters RHP Yu Darvish. [12/19]

So, what happened last night?
The Texas Rangers were revealed as the highest bidders for Yu Darvish in the posting process, setting a new record with a figure of $51.7 million. It led to one hell of a fun night on Twitter, but much of that came because there was no leak. While that might be shocking in the age of the 24/7 media cycle, there was no room to leak. The Nippon Ham Fighters simply had a number to consider (they were going to accept anything—they're broke). They didn't know which team submitted the winning bid. Neither of the favored teams, the Rangers or the Toronto Blue Jays, knew if they submitted the winning bid. The only leak could have come from the MLB offices, and when there is only one potential leaker, things tend not to leak.

So what happens now?
The Rangers have 30 days to sign Darvish. Once Texas signs him, the posting fee, which is right around three times the team's annual payroll, will be transferred to Nippon Ham within four days. The posting fee is paid in full; there are no payment plans or contingencies allowed. If the Rangers do not sign Darvish during the 30-day window, they will pay no fee. That point is nearly irrelevant, as there is no reason to believe that Darvish will not sign.

What kind of pitcher will Darvish be in the big leagues?
The short answer is a really good one. While Darvish is, like most Japanese pitchers, a drop-and-drive type, his 6-foot-5 frame means his delivery doesn't have the same flattening effect on the fastball that it does with shorter pitchers. He throws both a two- and four-seam fastball that he commands exceedingly well with good life down in the zone. He normally sits in the low- to mid-90s, with the occasional 96-97 mph reading for giggles, but on shorter rest, he's expected to sit more in the 90-95 range. Some scouts see his cutter, which has late depth and is a weapon against both left- and right-handed batters due to his ability to command the pitch, as his best offering, but his 78-82 mph slider is also an easy 60 on the scouting scale. He throws an extremely slow (upper 50s) curveball and has occasionally mixed in a changeup or split-change in the past. Everything plays up due to his ability to locate all of his pitches, and to both add and subtract velocity and movement.

Where does Darvish rank on the Rangers prospect list? What about a Top 101?
He doesn't. While he's obviously Rookie of the Year-eligible, labeling Darvish as a prospect is grossly inaccurate. He needs no time in the minor leagues, and needs no development. He's coming to the Rangers as a big league-ready product, and should not be ranked as a prospect.

What kind of adjustments will he need to make on the field?
This will be Darvish's biggest challenge. He'll need to cut down on his arsenal, scrapping the slow curve and likely the changeup. Even without them, he commands his slider and fastball enough to use them against left-handed hitters. His approach will also have to change, since he'll lose many of the strike calls he got in Japan as a superstar pitcher. He'll also need to sequence better; he could challenge hitters more in Japan, where usually only two or three hitters in a lineup are truly a threat to drive a ball. He'll also need to adjust to the workload. At his request, Nippon Ham shortened his rest from six days to five in 2011, and now that will reduce by one additional day. To his credit, he has put on weight and is now 220 pounds, giving him a big, athletic and sturdy frame. There are no glaring flaws in his mechanics.

What about off the field?
This is always the biggest wild card for any international player. Darvish is a bigger star in Japan than any athlete in America, and is just as likely to appear on the front page of the gossip rag as the sports section. His recent divorce from his wife, Saeko, was highly publicized; in many ways, the couple was Japan's version of Brangelina. While escaping the constant attention for Texas might appeal to him, the presence of an enormous Japanese media contingent will be a constant from spring training to the final out of the season. Darvish has some understanding of English, but hears it better than he speaks it, and it will take some time to adjust to American media. In addition, all of the pitfalls that potentially affect a multimillionaire in a foreign land apply.

So what does this mean for the Rangers?
It means they've found not only a replacement for their top starter last year, but an upgrade. If you trust Jon Daniels and his staff—and after all, they're the architects of the back-to-back American League champions—they've just told the world that they prefer Darvish for twice the money they were willing to pay C.J. Wilson. Darvish is expected to be better than Wilson, who is generally seen as a number-three starter due to his inability to succeed when his command is off, as we saw in the postseason. While most in the industry see Darvish as at least a number-two type, there are many who believe he could turn into a true ace with the right adjustments.

The signing is a clear response to the Angels, who are still basking in the glow of not only taking Wilson from the Rangers, but also scoring the biggest free-agent prize, Albert Pujols. It's easy to forget that the Angels were nipping at the heels of the Rangers in the American League West standings for much of the 2011 season, and the Rangers needed to respond.

 One of the immediate questions on a pure roster management scenario is how this impacts the Texas rotation, which already has Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, former closer Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, and Alexi Ogando. Having six starters is not a problem; unless you are the 2005 Chicago White Sox, you need six starters. Between injuries and potential performance issues, this is the kind of thing that will work itself out in the spring; there is no reason to make decisions and back your team into a corner in December.  

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

Related Content:  Texas Rangers

51 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

John Geer
(44)

Great breakdown, great explanation, great 'responsive' and timely writing. Nice reminder why I always ask for a renewal to BP for Christmas.

Dec 20, 2011 02:48 AM
rating: 3
 
pcanderson

So here's my immediate and perhaps dumb question. Of all the performance unknowns, the one that grabs me is August. As in: Japanese phenom working on six days between starts comes to the States and MLB and switches to a five days' routine, tears it up for a few months, but then comes to face that brutal Texas summer for the very first time. How high is that wall? How thick is it?

Dec 20, 2011 04:27 AM
rating: 2
 
prs130

and is Nolan Ryan going to insist that the wall isn't as high and thick as it actually is

Dec 20, 2011 07:02 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Darvish pitched on five days quite often in 2011, and because of his size and mechanics, it's less of a factor. It's certainly still a non-zero issue. But there is reason to believe it works out.

Dec 20, 2011 08:50 AM
 
kmbart

"Yu got questions? BP got answers!"

Dec 20, 2011 04:36 AM
rating: 3
 
jpjazzman

Whatever happened to Hisashi Iwakuma who the A's won the rights to negotiate with last year but couldn't reach an agreement with? Any word whether his team is posting him again or whether he is a FA now?

Dec 20, 2011 05:05 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

He's a free agent and trying to come to America, last I heard.

Dec 20, 2011 08:48 AM
 
knockoutking

curious, will your big darvish article go up live at BP and ESPN at the same time? I am assuming it is going to be on both sites (right?)

Dec 20, 2011 06:02 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

It's been pushed to Wednesday. ESPN liked it a lot and wanted to give it greater play, and we wanted to make sure our readers still got timely and good Darvish info, thus, what you just read.

Dec 20, 2011 08:51 AM
 
rrvwmr

I am under the impression that Darvish becomes a Japanese free agent after next year. What incentive does he have to sign THIS year rather than next? Obviously, a fair amount of money and job security are factors, but isn't he essentially giving up the $50M (present day dollars) posting fee? That seems fairly steep for job security. Will the Ham Fighters "kick back" some of that to Darvish? Is there a sense of pride in the Japanese culture? Is Japanese free agency more binding than allowing him to simply sign overseas?

Dec 20, 2011 06:26 AM
rating: 4
 
SamVan

Waite a minute, if you don't pay the posting fee if you can't sign him, what's to prevent the Angels (or the Yankees) from winning with an insanely high bid and then making no actual effort to sign him, thus preventing a rival from getting a front line pitcher at no cost to themselves?

Dec 20, 2011 06:39 AM
rating: 0
 
MichavdB

They could have done that, but didn't.

Dec 20, 2011 06:52 AM
rating: 0
 
Shawn

MLB front office is heavily involved in the posting process and I am sure does its due diligence to make sure that all teams that bid intend to actively pursue a reasonable contract with the Japanese player.

Given the Dice-K final contact and the fact that everyone agrees Darvish is a better pitcher, if a MLB team did not at least offer slightly more than Dice-K's contract numbers, then Bud and MLB would get really peeved and there would be some serious explaining to do.

I would suspect that MLB has told all the clubs that anyone caught doing something that underhanded would face severe repercussions...which I would suspect involve losing top draft picks.

Dec 20, 2011 07:15 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

What he said. It's also an extremely ugly move that is entirely unfair to the player who wants to come here. Teams are not going to be jerks like that.

Dec 20, 2011 08:52 AM
 
ofMontreal

And so the whole Iwakuma exchange with Oakland last year? He really wanted that much more than the A's would play? I thought there was an understanding thru conversations here at BP that the A's had been blocking as much as bidding. Or was it considered acceptable gray area... .

Dec 20, 2011 11:31 AM
rating: 0
 
alangreene

Also, is the payout really worth $50 M just to keep a player away from a competitor? That seems like a steep price.

Dec 20, 2011 11:40 AM
rating: 0
 
Brian Kopec

you dont have to pay the posting fee if you dont sign the player.

Dec 20, 2011 13:53 PM
rating: 0
 
rrvwmr

Ethics? Sportsmanship?

Dec 20, 2011 07:05 AM
rating: 1
 
rposborne

I would think there's plenty of social pressure in the business to not to that. They may be competing on the field, but even the Yankees GM has to do business with other GMs on a routine, ongoing basis. Better to not actively anger them. Plus I get the impression that the MLB/NPB relationship is always at least a bit strained, so jerking with the system would probably make the folks in NPB angry.

Frankly, I think the incentives to not be a jerk are more powerful than the motivation to keep talent away from rival teams.

Dec 20, 2011 08:59 AM
rating: 2
 
BurrRutledge

I'm curious how far this winter's meetings have shifted the balance of power in the AL.

PECOTA, PECOTA, let down your hair.

Dec 20, 2011 06:44 AM
rating: 0
 
hyprvypr

Kevin, one question, why do pitchers often limit their arsenal, especially if the pitches have been effective in the past? Is this because no matter what else you throw, if you throw a pitch 58 mph, it's going to get crushed often by MLB hitters? Watching guys like Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez, it often seems like they are throwing 4-6 pitches. Either this isn't the case or the quality of pitches are perhaps that much better then what Darvish has to show?

Thanks, awesome stuff Kevin!

Dec 20, 2011 06:51 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Counting pitches is a weird thing, as it's hard to tell which are variations on a pitch, and which are distinct. That curveball Darvish throws would get destroyed in the big leagues. Everyone thinks so, including his teammate, Bobby Keppel, who joined us on the podcast last week. It's a different game over there.

Dec 20, 2011 08:54 AM
 
Aaron/YYZ

How helpful will it be to Texas to have Colby Lewis on the roster and be able to draw on his experience from the two seasons he spent in Japan?

Dec 20, 2011 06:53 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

I could be of some value, especially in learning the American strike zone.

Dec 20, 2011 08:55 AM
 
Brian Kopec

Is this a better use of the Rangers money than simply resigning CJ Wilson would have been? (I understand that Wilson wanted to pitch in California, but money talks.) It looks like the Rangers are going to pay significantly more money for Darvish than they would have had to spend to keep Wilson. Is Darvish that much better as to justify this expense? Maybe I'm wrong, but I bet projections for Wilson and Darvish look remarkably similar, and while the upside on Darvish is probably higher, so is the risk. If you are making a move simply as a reactionary measure, I don't think that's a good enough reason.

Dec 20, 2011 08:00 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Personally, I'd rather have Darvish for 110m, than Wilson for 77m.

Dec 20, 2011 08:55 AM
 
khenry0105

I don't this can be painted as a "reactionary measure" as many in the sports media are attempting. It pretty clear based on the Rangers scouting each of his starts and Daniels personally traveling to watch him pitch, that the Rangers were extremely interested in Darvish all along.

Dec 20, 2011 09:00 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

I certainly don't feel like I've painted in that way, but I think it's silly the think that Wilson signing with the Angels had zero effect on the Rangers' decision making.

Dec 20, 2011 09:26 AM
 
SenatorsGuy

So he shouldn't be placed on top prospect lists. That's okay. But for those of us that just need a ranking, he is, luckily, 25. So where does he list on a Top 25 and under of Texas's organization?

Dec 20, 2011 09:53 AM
rating: 2
 
Brian Kopec

If Kevin would rather have Darvish than Wilson, then he is saying he thinks Darvish is no less than a 4 or 5 WAR pitcher for the next 5 or 6 years. How many Rangers of any age are better than that?

Dec 20, 2011 11:52 AM
rating: 1
 
meanwhoogean

Darvish may have a higher upside than Wilson, but his lower end projections are much lower than Wilson's. Texas seems like a team in need of low risk investments, since they are already a playoff ready team. Wilson would have cost less, and provided similar Warp projections. Darvish needs to be elite for any deal to work, and I cannot imagine how a team can believe he is a lock to be an ace, since he is changing countries and leagues.

Dec 20, 2011 10:30 AM
rating: 0
 
khenry0105

Kevin, in no way was I trying to imply that you or BP was guilty of painting the Rangers interest in Darvish as a "reactionary measure." When writing that, I was picturing tiny devil versions of Mitch Williams and Harold Reynolds sitting on each of JD's shoulders, telling him he had to do something - anything.

Sure, Wilson signing with the Angels had some non-zero effect on the Rangers' decision making, but not to the extent that a large number of baseball writers are implying. If the Marlins somehow had signed Wilson, I find it hard to imagine the Rangers now having no interest in Darvish - especially considering their constant scouting of him all season. But I have no doubt that the Angels' signing Wilson probably influenced the bid amount to insure the best opportunity for the Rangers to win negotiating rights.

Sorry for the placement of this response - for some reason the post reply links are not working for me.

Dec 20, 2011 11:28 AM
rating: 0
 
saucyjack88

Kevin, something you didn't mention was ball size (I mean baseball size!). I know Daisuke had issues with the larger US ball; is that something that is seen as less of an issue for the larger-in-physical-stature Darvish?

Dec 20, 2011 11:36 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

NPB standardized the ball in 2011. MUCH more similar in size/weight/density to MLB balls, and Darvish, as the stats show, was just fine with it.

Dec 20, 2011 12:07 PM
 
Brian Cartwright

The new ball cut a run off the league ERA and dropped HRs by a third, so I believe most pitchers were fine with it! Even so, I am a member of the Darvish bandwagon.

Dec 20, 2011 20:41 PM
rating: 0
 
Randy Brown
(189)

Pop quiz for the BP community. Would you rather have:

Dec 20, 2011 12:46 PM
rating: 0
 
Randy Brown
(189)

CJ Wilson at 5 years, $77 million

Dec 20, 2011 12:47 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I'll buck the trend and go with CJ Wilson. Call it a Fukudome flashback, but Japanese pitchers don't seem to have much of a shelf life and I'm wary of the Texas heat. Whether it was a hitter or a pitcher, it seems the league caught up to pretty much every Japanese player after 2-3 years except Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui.

Dec 20, 2011 21:41 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Also, just because the Rangers passed on Wilson was no guarantee they were getting Darvish... so I would've wrapped him up early. Though it should be noted Wilson said he took less money (compared to the Marlins?) to go to the Angels.

Dec 20, 2011 21:44 PM
rating: 0
 
Randy Brown
(189)

Yu Darvish at (say) 6 years, $110 million

Dec 20, 2011 12:47 PM
rating: 4
 
boards

Read the Maury Brown piece and lower the projected cost of Darvish. I don't believe the international marketing aspect of signing Darvish can be underestimated.

Dec 20, 2011 14:26 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Can the Rangers really take advantage of that though? They don't have the international presence of the Yankees or Red Sox, who had ties to Japan before they acquired Japanese players. Nor are they the Mariners who were owned by Nintendo.

it's one thing to have an international marketing aspect but it's another thing to be able to capitalize on it... withouth pimping Cowboys vs Aliens or something...

Dec 21, 2011 09:18 AM
rating: 0
 
Randy Brown
(189)

Prince Fielder at 6 years, $140 million

Dec 20, 2011 12:47 PM
rating: 1
 
Randy Brown
(189)

My answer would be that signing Fielder would be the lowest-risk move they could make, but signing Darvish is potentially the highest reward. Given the current strength of their team, I think I'd have gone the low-risk route and signed Fielder.

Which makes me wonder just how much Boras is asking for; if Fielder is holding to a line somewhere around $200 million, I'd be going for Plan B also.

So, my answer would be Fielder, but if the demands are outrageous, then I can see why they went the Darvish route instead.

Dec 20, 2011 12:51 PM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

Texas may not be done. But who is left in the Fielder Derby? Is it really down to Texas, Toronto & Seattle?

Dec 20, 2011 13:15 PM
rating: 0
 
kcheaden

I'm hoping the Nats jump into the mix.

Dec 20, 2011 16:00 PM
rating: 0
 
kcheaden

Is Yu a ground ball or flyball pitcher?

Dec 20, 2011 16:01 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Neither. Doesn't lean especially either way, but his ability to work low in the zone and the 2-seamer help.

Dec 20, 2011 18:48 PM
 
sbnirish77

A most relevant question that I thought would have been answered in this article.

Dec 20, 2011 16:43 PM
rating: -1
 
ofMontreal

I think he will get both + strikeouts!

Dec 20, 2011 16:47 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

What compelled Texas to offer $51.7 million instead of $51.8 million or an even $52 million?

If the bid is sealed and the process is completely blind, why such an odd number.

Dec 20, 2011 21:43 PM
rating: 1
 
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