Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Yu Darvish Sweepstakes: Do MLB Teams Love Buyer's Remorse?

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I've never quite understood why major league baseball teams go on a frenzy to put up astronomical bids for players (particularly pitchers) from the Japanese League. The latest frenzy was for "pitching sensation" Yu Darvish. The AP has reported that the Texas Rangers have won the bid (for the rights to negotiate with Darvish) by posting a whopping $51.7 million.

I'll repeat that-- $51.7 million (a record bid).

That's the amount the Rangers have to pay Darvish's Japanese team, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, just for the rights to negotiate with him. If they sign Darvish to, let's say, a 5-year - $50 million contract, it means that they would have to shell out over $100 million for a pitcher who has not proven he can get the job done in the major leagues. I'm no expert, but couldn't they have aggressively gone after C.J. Wilson (a proven major league winner) and saved themselves 30 million bucks?

This same frenzy happened in 2006 when then-Japanese sensation Daisuke (Dice-K) Matsuzaka wanted to bring his talents to America. The Boston Red Sox put up a then-record $51.1 million bid for the supposed-Second Coming of Cy Young and went on to sign him to a 6-year, $52 million contract. For $103.1 million, the Red Sox have gotten 49 wins and a 4.25 ERA out of Dice-K in 5 seasons so far. So the Red Sox shelled out over $100 million for a pitcher that is averaging a little under 10 wins a season. Go figure.

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And now the Texas Rangers are the new Boston Red Sox. Yes, Darvish has had great success in the Japanese Pacific League, but the major leagues is a whole different animal. The Japanese League falls somewhere in between Triple A and the majors, so let's see how Darvish fairs when he has to face the likes of Albert Pujols in the AL West.

But if the Rangers experience buyer's remorse in the future, they can just ask another bid-frenzy team, the New York Yankees, for advice on how they got over their Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa nightmares.

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