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December 21, 2011

The BP First Take

Wednesday, December 21

by Daniel Rathman

By now, the baseball world knows that the Rangers won the right to negotiate with Yu Darvish and will send $51.7 million to the Nippon Ham Fighters if they are able to sign him. Just hours before the announcement, though, the Blue Jays were the trendy prediction—and that raises the question, why isn’t Darvish heading to Toronto?

The simple answer, of course, is that the Rangers’ bid was higher. But, why is that? On Tuesday, the Toronto Star reported that the Jays came just short in the posting process, and that their offer was for more than $50 million as well. If the right to negotiate with Darvish was worth $50 million to GM Alex Anthopoulos and the team’s owners, then surely $1.7 million more would not have been a deal breaker.

We may never know the exact value of the Jays’ bid, or how close they came to topping the Rangers. But $50 million—while a nice, round number—is not the threshold that matters. That would be $51.1 million: the Red Sox’s fee for the rights to Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Rangers did not bid $600,000 more than that for Darvish by accident, and when it comes to interpreting the Jays’ true intentions, $1.1 million makes all the difference.

If the Jays’ bid was between $50 million and $51.1 million, they were either in the running only for show or made a grave miscalculation regarding the symbolic value of the Matsuzaka figure. If it was between $51.1 million and $51.7 million, then Anthopoulos and co. were in it to win it and were merely edged out by Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan.

The Rangers’ push for Darvish may have been motivated by the Angels’ splurge for Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, but the value of their bid proved that they were seriously interested from the start. The Yankees’ bid of less than $20 million showed the opposite—and the same is true of any other submission below the $51.1 million mark.

If I could have predicted that it would take a hair more than the Dice-K figure to land Darvish, then the Blue Jays certainly should have known that as well. Many fans and pundits were convinced that the 25-year-old righty would be the prize of Toronto’s offseason. That $1.1 million may eventually tell us whether the Jays fooled us or will come away looking foolish themselves.

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

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