Let’s go back to the mid 1990’s. Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) teams were losing star players to MLB without compensation. This issue was magnified when NPB stars Hideo Nomo and Alfonso Soriano left to play in MLB after using loopholes to void their existing contracts. An additional problem was that NPB players had very little negotiating power if their teams decided to deal them to MLB, as when pitcher Hideki Irabu was traded to an MLB team for which he had no desire to play.
In 1997, the San Diego Padres purchased the contract of Hideki Irabu (RIP) from the Chiba Lotte Marines. The criticisms of this sale from other MLB teams, who wished to bid on Irabu, led to the creation of the posting system currently used by Japanese and MLB teams. Irabu, however, refused to sign with the Padres, saying he would only play with the New York Yankees. The Padres would eventually include him as a player-to-be-named-later in a trade that involved Homer Bush and Irabu going to the Yankees in exchange for Rafael Medina, Ruben Rivera (the guy who stole Derek Jeter’s glove and sold it for $2,500), and $3 million in cash. The Yankees signed him to a $12.8 million, four-year contract.
In 1998, an agreement called the “posting system” was rewritten to address both problems. Under this system, when an NPB player is “posted”, MLB holds a four-day-long silent auction during which MLB teams can submit sealed bids in an attempt to win the exclusive rights to negotiate with the player for a period of 30 days. If the MLB team with the winning bid and the NPB player agree on contract terms before the 30-day period has expired, the NPB team receives the bid amount as a transfer fee, and the player is free to play in MLB. If the MLB team cannot come to a contract agreement with the posted player, then no fee is paid, and the player’s rights revert to his NPB team.
Up to the end of the 2010/11 posting period, fifteen NPB players had been posted using the system. Of these, eight signed Major League contracts immediately, three signed minor league contracts, three were unsuccessful in attracting any MLB interest, and one could not come to a contract agreement during the 30-day negotiation period. The two highest-profile players that have been acquired by MLB teams through the posting system are Ichiro Suzuki and Daisuke Matsuzaka. They attracted high bids of $13.125 million and $51.1 million respectively.
Enter Yu Darvish. The Texas Rangers won the rights to negotiate with the star Japanese right-hander by placing a record $51.7 million posting auction bid on him. As per the rules described above, the Rangers now have 30 days to negotiate a contract with Darvish. If they cannot work out a deal, Darvish would return to Japan for the 2012 season and the Rangers would be refunded the posting fee.
The 25-year-old Darvish is no doubt considered the best pitcher from Japan to try to play in MLB, better than Daisuke Matsuzaka (hence the bid was more than for Matsuzaka.) Darvish has posted five consecutive seasons of a sub-2.00 ERA with his best year coming last season in which he was 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA and struck out 276 batters in 232 innings.
Darvish not only received a higher posting bid than Matsuzaka, he is expected to command a bigger contract than Matsuzaka as well. Dice-K if you recall signed with the Boston Red Sox for six years and $52 million after the Red Sox already paid the posting fee of $51.1 million! Darvish features a fastball around 93-95 mph, a hard slider and an array of off-speed pitches. At 6-foot-5, 225-pounds Darvish is in fact projected to be a No. 1 starter.
No doubt thanks to Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels, the Rangers are universally perceived to have significant minor league pitching depth. They also have one of the best pitching coaches in the game in Mike Maddux. By my count the Rangers now have at least seven possibilities at starting pitcher: Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando, Colby Lewis, Scott Feldman, Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz (who for some reason they still say they want to make a starter) and now Darvish… but at what cost?
The Red Sox paid more than $103 million to watch Dice-K pitch one good year in 2008 followed by years of lumbering through four hour games with base runners constantly on base only to have him blow out his elbow. Is it really worth more than $103 million to bring over a 25-year old that has already logged more than 1,000 professional innings? I’d like to think that Ryan and Daniels know what they are doing here but I just don’t see the risk outweighing the reward… Caveat Emptor!
The founder and former owner of MC3 Sports Media, Mike Cardano is the Sr. Business Administrator for RotoExperts and the Executive Director here at TheXLog.com. You may email Mike @ firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MikeCardano. Listen to Mike on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio with Scott Engel and the morning crew Tuesday mornings at 10am ET.