Yu Darvish- Japan’s Stephen Strasburg- is on every MLB team’s radar since it appears the 25-year old will be made available by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters for a posting fee. He is under contract until after the 2014 season. However if he waits it out, he could become a legit free agent and personally negotiate with all 30 MLB teams. If he wants to leave now with permission from the Ham Fighters, the bidding process will begin, and team have to pay the Fighters. Yu Darvish has pitched in the Nippon Professional Baseball League since age 18, and has dominated the league for the last five seasons.
Yu Darvish’s stuff:
He is right-handed, and throws from a three-quarters arm slot in a drop-and-drive motion. He has bulked up in recent years and is around 220 pounds, and is tall- around 6’5″. His fastball is in the 94 to 97 range. He has a 80mph slider-curveball combo pitch with a great break. He also throws a bunch of other pitches to confuse batters, such as cutter, change-up, two-seam fastball, and splitter. He stopped using the screwball because he got injured using it. His work ethic, conditioning, and stamina are legendary.
Yu Darvish’s Baseball History:
He was a High School superstar (High School baseball is like college football here in America) and was successful in many pressure packed tournaments. He was scouted and drafted in 2004. He chose the NPB over MLB. His professional career is loaded with awards for his value, pitching, and fielding.
He was “shamed” in the 2008 Olympics, and lost his spot as ace after Cuba beat him.
He was part of Japan’s 2009 WBC victory, going 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 13 innings.
He is currently the highest paid pitcher in Japan.
Yu Darvish’s Personal Life
His father is Iranian and his mother is Japanese, which is rare in Japan, and not socially acceptable for a kid growing up there. But his results and personality have catapulted him to a mega-celebrity and he has been embraced by all fans, and is worshiped.
This is true even though he was involved in a serious, serious scandal in Japan when he was a teenager he was caught smoking and gambling. That is as bad as a stunt A-Rod pulls here in America, but Yu Darvish was forgiven.
He runs a charity that is dedicated to the construction, installment, and maintenance of wells, well pumps, and rainwater storage facilities in developing countries, including Iran, where he bring baseball to kids.
Yu Darvish has an intense outgoing personality, and celebrates after strikeouts. His Persian nickname is Farid, which means Glorious.
He does commercials and is fantasized about by every Japanese girl.
How Much Will Yu Darvish Cost?
If he goes through the bidding process with the Fighters now, it may cost a MLB team $30 to $55 million to speak to him. This fee is NOT a concern for rich MLB teams (seriously) because it’s a non-punitive sunk cost that’ll only affect the team treasury and not luxury tax. Yes, that is why Brian Cashman and Theo Epstein have no issues with posting fees to speak with international players. Yes, this is the same Brian Cashman that haggles over a $800,000 difference in arbitration figures or over a one year extension for veterans.
Yu Darvish, being the highest paid pitcher in Japan, should expect to receive at most 6 years, 70 million (11.6 million/year) plus a bunch of perks and bonuses. His low end, and perhaps more realistic contract, would be $36 million (6 million a year) with bonuses that could push it to $50 million ($8.3 million a year).
Should Your Team Sign Yu Darvish?
Well it’s not your money. And I’ve been told it’s racist to say that since Hideki Irabu, Kei Igawa, and Dice-K have sucked in the United States, then Yu Darvish will suck. Your team will not lose a draft pick to sign Yu Darvish. It still is a huge financial risk because even the greatest stat heads can’t predict how a Japanese player will perform in America. The latest stat head propaganda indicates that even at his worst, Yu Darvish would post an ERA of 3.20 in 200 innings.
This is where I differ from embracing the stat head community. You can check all the stat head sites, and over 90% of the articles and comments are positive. Anyone who disagrees is shouted down. If I was General Manager, I would invest the $50 million posting fee in better scouting and development. GMs feel that the posting fee is “free money” and I just find that so offensive in this current economy. If my owner didn’t care and pushed for it, then sure, why not? But I wouldn’t pitch it. It’s easier to project American minor league stats to MLB than Japanese stats. Minor League players are cheaper. Stat heads don’t focus on the psychological and culture differences of a Japanese immigrant to America. There’s a reason why Dice-K, Irabu, and Igawa were nowhere close to their projections. Hideo Nomo had a short run, and never equaled his NPB career. Granted all of those pitchers were not young. As you can see Yu Darvish’s scouting report is glowing, but so were their’s. It’s a total crapshoot. Yu Darvish has an advantage because he seems “different”, being of mixed race in a society that frowns upon that, and already had a scandal.
In the you can judge for yourself. Just go on the record and leave a comment to take credit or get ripped. Don’t play it 20/20 hindsight.
My own opinion? He will not be a BUST like Igawa, but he will not have 6 years of being Justin Verlander. He will be above average, but never live up to the hype.
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