Bloomberg News

Rangers Win Right to Negotiate With Japanese Pitcher Yu Darvish

December 20, 2011

Dec. 20 (Bloomberg) -- The Texas Rangers have 30 days to reach a contract agreement with Yu Darvish after winning negotiating rights for the Japanese pitcher.

While the Rangers and Major League Baseball didn’t disclose the amount of the winning bid to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, Yahoo Sports said it was a record $51.7 million, without saying where it got the information. The highest previous negotiating fee for a Japanese player was the $51.1 million the Boston Red Sox bid in 2007 for Daisuke Matsuzaka.

“It’s obviously a very exciting night for our organization, our fans, our community,” Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels said in a conference call with reporters last night. “It’s just the first step in the process, but it’s an important one. We hope that it will end by signing Darvish.”

Darvish, 25, has gone 93-38 with a 1.99 earned run average in seven seasons with Nippon Ham, which accepted the bid under the Japanese posting system by which players can move to the U.S. and Major League Baseball.

The Rangers, who were beaten in the World Series the past two seasons, lost their top starting pitcher, C.J. Wilson, as a free agent to the Los Angeles Angels earlier this month.

Daniels refused to say how much the Rangers bid for the 6- foot-5 (2-meter) right-handed Darvish. The Hokkaido team and MLB also didn’t give details of the bid in e-mailed releases.

If the Rangers can’t negotiate a contract with Darvish, he’ll rejoin the Fighters and the posting fee will be returned.

Darvish, who had a 1.44 ERA last season while leading Japan’s Pacific League by striking out 276 batters in 232 innings, has a fastball that usually reaches around 95 mph (153 kph), according to Ben Badler, an analyst for Baseball America who studies scouting and player development.

Several Good Pitches

“He has better stuff and projects better going forward than any pitcher who is a free agent this year,” Badler said in a telephone interview on Dec. 14. “He can reach back and get to 96-97 when he needs it, he’s got a plus slider and good off- speed stuff, really all the ingredients you look for in a top- of-the-rotation pitcher.”

The Rangers said in an e-mailed release that they look forward to beginning negotiations with Darvish’s agents, Arn Tellem and Don Nomura.

“The Rangers are an extraordinary franchise in an exceptional city with equally exceptional fans,” Tellem said in a statement. “Yu is honored to be prized so highly and recognized as a once-in-a-generation pitcher.”

Darvish didn’t play enough seasons in Japan to become a free agent and sign with the U.S. team of his choice. Instead, he went through a blind-bidding process that has yielded mixed results for pitchers.

Matsuzaka and Igawa

The Red Sox and New York Yankees both signed Japanese pitchers through the posting system in 2007. After paying a record amount for the rights to Matsuzaka, Boston gave him a $52 million contract over six years. The Yankees spent $26 million to be able to negotiate with Kei Igawa, signing him to a $20 million, five-year deal.

Matsuzaka went 15-12 with a 4.40 ERA his first season in Boston as the Red Sox won a World Series title. He followed that with an 18-3 campaign and a 2.90 ERA. He’s struggled since and is recovering from June elbow surgery.

Igawa lasted two seasons with the Yankees, going 5-9 with a 6.66 ERA.

Daniels watched Darvish pitch while making a trip to Japan this season, and the Rangers had scouted him for several years. Texas won the American League championship the past two seasons before losing in the World Series to the San Francisco Giants in 2010 and the St. Louis Cardinals this year.

“Our commitment from ownership is to put the best possible team out there,” Daniels said. “We’ve had success the past couple of years and haven’t been able to close it out, and that’s our goal.”

--Editors: Erik Matuszewski, Dan Baynes

To contact the reporter on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at mlevinson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net.


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