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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

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

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ScottyB

Being a blind auction, I don't know how much we could read into this. $50M is an awfully large bluff.

Dec 21, 2011 09:02 AM
rating: 0
 
bigjonempire

There was a lot of speculation in the media at least, that the bidding would not reach the heights that it did with Matsuzaka. With the changes in the economics around the game and with history and past results as a guide I could understand bidding much less than 51.1 million and still expecting to have a decent shot at winning. 50 million seems like a very serious attempt to me and not a mistake or a foolish error.

Dec 21, 2011 10:11 AM
rating: 0
 
Jay Taylor

We don't how much they offered though. Maybe their number was $51.6 million, and they thought that was high enough over the Matsuzaka number.

Dec 21, 2011 10:32 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

Thanks for the comments, guys.

@ScottyB:

I agree that $50 million would have been a very large bluff, but it's not really a bluff in that the Jays would not have lost $50 million had they not been able to sign Darvish.

@bigjonempire:

A couple of thing. First, with the changes in the conversion rate, $51.1 million now is less than it was when Matsuzaka came over. Second, I think it's likely that the Blue Jays were seriously interested, but given the symbolism of the Matsuzaka figure, if they were willing to go to $50 million, they should have gone over $51.1.

@Jay Taylor

That's essentially my point -- that knowing they bid over $50 million doesn't tell us much. If they indeed bid over $51.1 million, that would clarify their intent.

Dec 21, 2011 10:45 AM
 
ostrowj1

Maybe I am wrong, but my understanding with the Red Sox's Matsuzaka bid was that the Red Sox hoped that they could negotiate with the Seibu Lions to get some of that money back. The argument being that if 5-10 million stood in the way of Boston and Daisuke coming to an agreement, the Lions would chip in the difference in order to guarantee receiving the bulk of the money (40-45 mil is better than nothing). It seems that this sort of bidding / renegotiating is off the table now. With this in mind, I don't know how symbolic a figure $51.1 is at this point.

Dec 21, 2011 12:16 PM
rating: 2
 
bigjonempire

There really was no reason to think that the Dice-K bid had some symbolic meaning in this process, other than a hope by the Lions ownership that they'd get this much for their player. The lions would likely have accepted 40 million if that was the high bid.

The bid number is only important as it relates to the bids of every other team. What if the Rangers had re-signed Wilson and not bid? There were a ton of reasons to believe that the bidding would not be as rich, and if rumors are true it wasn't, not as many teams bid and only one team believed they needed to beat 51.1,

Dec 22, 2011 08:09 AM
rating: 0
 
nberlove

The truth is we do not really know if the Jays bid over $50 million or not. Nor do we know the validity of the rumours that the Jays' owners gave Anthopoulos a blank cheque and orders to get him at any cost. Finally, we have no idea what the Jays would have offered Darvish himself or whether a deal could have gotten done.

The bottom line is we do not know if the Jays truly coveted Darvish or if they (or some in the media) just wanted to create the appearance that they were very interested. Unless a very reliable source divulges some key details, we will likely never know.

The Jays' story should now turn to how they will spend the $100 or so million they may have allotted to Darvish, if they spend it at all.

Dec 21, 2011 11:13 AM
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ostrowj1

There is no 100 million. They would sign Darvish to 100 million only if they thought he would make them more than 100 million in profit (ticket sales, merchandising, etc). No Darvish means no 100 million.

Dec 21, 2011 12:19 PM
rating: 0
 
nberlove

First of all, Rogers certainly does have lots of money to spend. They are a mult-billion dollar company and the Jays are hardly a blip on their financial statements. I am not saying they should spend an extra $20M or so a year, but lack of resources is certainly NOT the reason.

Second, if Rogers thought it could make back all or most of his contract from Darvish related increased revenues, than the Jays really did screw up. This implies little or no financial risk and all upside based on his performance.

Dec 21, 2011 12:50 PM
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smallflowers

Anyone that buys on Ebay regularly knows you need to put up some weird crooked numbers like the R.Sox did for Dice-K if you want to win the bidding.

I expected the winning bid for Darvish to be $56.something million or higher, because you absolutely cannot ignore the historical/symbolic piece here. That's why Pujols got the extra few million in his deal - so that he would have the 2nd highest contract ever and not the 3rd. These nuances matter greatly to teams and players.

Alex A is smart enough to know this. He's also smart enough to know that his main competitor for Prince Fielder are the Rangers. I'm guessing they hyped the Darvish bid to make sure the Rangers were in it to win it. If the Rangers are going to sink $100M into Darvish, that potentially removes them as an obstacle for the real prize: Prince.

Dec 21, 2011 19:38 PM
rating: 0
 
Worthing

As an aside, Rathman's BP First Take's are quickly becoming one of my favorite series at BP. Fleshed out more and a bit longer and they'd be the spiritual successor to Sheehan's Prospectus Today series. And that's awesome.

(Yeah, I said it, I said the "S" word)

Dec 21, 2011 20:40 PM
rating: 3
 
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