Mailbag: Yu Darvish


(AP Photo/Chris Park)

Nigel asks: With the Yankees out on Lee and no premiere pitchers available in the near future, is Yu Darvish the next big time Yankee signing at SP?

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first: Darvish is the best pitcher on the planet not currently employed by one of the 30 MLB clubs. He’s crushed the competition in Japan over the last four years, striking out 9.2 batters per nine innings while walking just 2.1 per nine. Opponents have taken him deep just 34 times in 792.1 innings over the last four seasons, or roughly once for every 23.1 IP. Aside from a brief bout with “lower body strains” in 2009, Darvish has been perfectly healthy, throwing no fewer than 200 innings and ten complete games in three of the last four years.

Patrick Newman of the indispensable NPB Tracker wrote a post at FanGraphs this past March explaining why Darvish is the real deal, and that was before the righty put up the best season of his career. I suggest giving that a read before going any further, and when you’re done with that, here’s a video to watch.

Darvish was expected to be posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters this offseason, but he decided to delay the move to MLB by a year because of a divorce. I hate to speculate, but you have to think he’s waiting the year because he doesn’t want his future ex-wife to get half of the mega-contract he’s sure to land when he comes stateside. Anyway, Darvish now plans to join MLB after the 2011 season, and so we wait.

We know that the Yankees have scouted him extensively in the past, and of course they’ll have interest when the time comes simply because he’s young (two months younger than Phil Hughes!) and a top flight pitcher. The team’s pitching rotation will change quite a bit between now and next offseason, but that won’t stop them from pursuing a high end arm. It all comes down to price.

Brian Cashman has said that he considers posting fees to be a waste of money (after the Kei Igawa deal, obviously), and they pretty much are because all they buy you is a 30-day exclusive negotiating window. You still end up paying the player very handsomely. Talk of a $70M+ posting fee has been bounced around for years now, but I can’t imagine it’ll go that high. Teams are not oblivious to what’s happened with Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has done anything but justify Boston’s $100M+ commitment. The posting fee will certainly be exorbitant, but I’m willing to bet it’s closer to $50M than $70M.

As for a comparable contract, Felix Hernandez’s five-year, $78M deal makes sense. Darvish won’t be a true free agent in the sense that he’ll be able to solicit bids from every team, so that will limit his leverage. That means you’re looking at a $130M or so total investment, something only a handful of teams can afford. Basically the Yankees, Red Sox, probably the Mets ($36.5M coming off the books after 2011, and that’s just three players), Angels, and the Mariners. Maybe a few other clubs get involved, but it’s tough to see.

As good as Darvish is, there’s a ton of risk in acquiring him. His strikeout totals in Japan are very good but not great, and his workload at such a young age is pretty ridiculous. Remember, they pitch once a week in Japan, not in a five-man rotation. That’s a big adjustment that has to be made and should not be overlooked. It’s not like Darvish is Igawa though, he’s is a power pitcher that misses bats and limits homers, so even if the AL East turns him into a 7.5 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9 guy, he’s essentially Matt Cain going forward. Any team would add that guy to their rotation.

Next winter’s free agent pitching crop is pretty weak, assuming common sense wins out and Adam Wainwright’s option for 2012 kicks in. That alone will make the competition for Darvish pretty stiff. I think the Yankees will submit a competitive bid next winter and make a legit run at acquiring him regardless of happens between now and then, but I would not be at all upset if they lose out on him because some team is trying to make a statement with a huge bid. Of course, if the 2011 seasons turns into a pitching disaster and the Yanks miss the playoffs, all bets are off.

Categories : Mailbag


  1. Tom T says:

    At least the posting fee does not count against the luxury tax. So if the total bill is $130, it won’t be as bad as signing someone to a $130 MM deal.

    I wonder if a team posts a very high bid with no real intention of signing him in hopes of blocking other teams from signing him.

    • Malrick says:

      If something like that happens the bid can be rejected and the second highest bidder would win.

      • Mattchu12 says:

        I don’t think so. The highest bid is the team that talks, either you accept it or you don’t.

        If you don’t accept it then that player goes back to Japan.

        If you do accept it, you give the MLB team 30 days to try and sign them. If the team cannot sign the player within that span, the player goes back to Japan.

        This was the problem with Hisashi Iwakuma, some people believe that the Athletics put in a high bid so that they could prevent other teams in the division from signing him. Though I think that all just fell apart because Iwakuma had some crazy demands.

    • JimmieFoxx says:

      I could be totally wrong but I think the posting fee gets returned to the MLB team, if they cannot come to an agreement with the pitcher.

      Also, the Japanese team would take the highest posting fee as they want to make the most profit out of the deal. They won’t take the 2nd or 3rd highest bid. They’re are in it for the money, unless of course my first point holds true. They might take the 2nd highest bid if they feel as though the pitcher and MLB team have a legit shot at reaching an agreement.

      • Mattchu12 says:

        I don’t think you CAN take the second or third highest bid. They have to accept the highest bid or no bids at all. Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe there was a lot of talk about this when Dice-K was posted a few years back.

        From what I remember, it’s only the highest bidder who is allowed to talk to the Japanese club, and if they turn down the highest bid, they are turning down all the bidder.

    • OldYanksFan says:

      Correct, and that really matters. If the posting fee is $50m, the Yankees save 40%, or $20m… so it would be like paying a player $30m. Also, Theo was very smart. He paid through the nose for the (non-taxable) posting fee, but offered a salary far below what we all expected… 6 years/$52m, plus incentives. That’s an AAV of $8.66m, which doesn’t even get a decent #3 these days.

      I believe if the player does not sign, the posting fee is returned. If so, Theo made a low ball offer knowing that returning to Japan and costing his team the posting fee, would shame them. Remember, at the time, $15m/yr was being thrown around.

      If the Yankees made that deal, DM (compared to a taxable player) would have actual cost $30m + $52m = $82m, for 6 years, or an AAV of just under $14m. Is that a decent deal for a SP with a ERA+ of 110? Probably not, but remember, Dice-K has disappointed, as many were expecting a quality #2, and maybe even an Ace.

      If the Yankees could get Yu at that same deal, it might look very good.

      I am however against it, as the Yankees as not in a position to gamble with any more long/expensive contracts. Maybe when AJ and Jeter are gone, but now we have an aging, inflexible team, and regardless of how tempting Yu is, this deal would have us flirting with possible disaster.

  2. tomaconda says:

    Due to the history of past Japanese pitchers success in the major leagues I would pass on Darvish if it meant more than a 20 million dollar posting fee. Irabu was the Japanes Nolan Ryan, Matsuzaka was better than sliced bread and Igawa was a premier pitcher in Japan. Even Chan Ho Park while good for a few seasons just wouldn’t be worth what these posting fees have climbed to. The only players from Japan who seem to be able to make the transition easily are the high average line drive type hitters.

    • mustang says:

      Agree with everything, but I might still take the chance because all he will cost is money and there is nothing in the 2011 free agent class.

    • Steve H says:

      Just because prior Japanese pitchers didn’t have success doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. Simply being Japanese doesn’t make you incapable of being great at the major league level. There’s certainly an adjustment to be made, but by all accounts, Darvish’s stuff is head and shoulders above all of the other guys. I don’t know if he will be great in America or not, but I wouldn’t hold his Japaneseness or Hideki Irabu against him.

      • mustang says:

        Agree, but I wouldn’t blame Cashman for having cold feet after the history here.

      • tomaconda says:

        “Simply being Japanese doesn’t make you incapable of being great at the major league level. There’s certainly an adjustment to be made, but by all accounts, Darvish’s stuff is head and shoulders above all of the other guys.”

        Not saying being Japanese has anything to do with it. Saying success in Japan does not translate to success in mlb. We heard the same thing about Irabu’s “stuff” and Matsuzaka was more hyped than Irabu!

      • OldYanksFan says:

        Yeah… not good to generalize, but a few things have to be considered.
        1) The Japanese League simply does not have power hitters. Matsui was Babe Ruth in Japan, while here he averaged under 25 HRs/yr. So every time a Japanese player made an out to the warning track, it might have been a HR if hit by a MLB player.

        2) The once-a-week schedule as mentioned. I believe these guys are more prone to injury and fatigue when moved to MLB.

        3) The Japanese ball is a little smaller. Easier to throw, harder to hit. While it is a very small difference, an adjustment still has to be made. I’m sure that has been a contributing factor to why Dice-K walks more here then in Japan.

        4) As we see with Ichiro, even when a guy can hit HRs, these Japanese guys are trained to make contact… not kill the ball. When a fan once asked Mickey if he tried to hit HRs, Mantle simply said that every time he came up, he tried to hit a HR. While today’s sluggers might not be that Homer conscious, sluggers here always try to drive the ball… as opposed to swatting it. This is a cultural difference in baseball between the 2 countries.

        Dick-K has a MLB rate of 0.9/9 HR. In Japan it was 0.63/9.

        So while the relatively poor history Japanese pitchers have in MLB doesn’t mean it will always apply to future pitchers, it would be foolish not to give it hard consideration. Add that to the exisitng dangers or long/expensive contracts, and I think it makes for a precarious situation.

    • Slu says:

      High Average, line drive guys like like Kaz Matsui?

      And what about pitchers like Nomo, Ishii, what was the name of that closer for Seattle, Sasaki? And Colby Lewis? And there are other pitchers as well (Kuroda, Saito come to mind).

      And Park is Korean and never played in Japan.

      But this is all silly since none of this has anything to do with Darvish. But saying pitchers from Japan can’t make the transition easily is silly, especially using the examples you gave.

      • tomaconda says:

        Kaz Matsui struck out 125 times in 580 at bats against Japanese pitching (inferior) with a very low walk total. He was a weak fly ball hitter who managed 30 hr in Japan. The parks in Japan are like fenway park but with 8 foot walls. Barry Bonds would hit 100 hrs if he plated there in his 50s.

        I dont see any pitcher that you have listed above being worth a 20 mil posting fee and a 70 million dollar contract but Im sure you can tell me something different.

        All of this has to do with Darvish. Pitcher who have success in inferior leagues have shown not to have as much success in mlb.

    • ? says:

      Ummm Chan Ho Park is Korean.

      • tomaconda says:

        I understand he is Korean but like the other pitcher he dominated against weaker competition with something like 13k/9 when he pitched for the national team and was supposed to be the next great thing. While he didi have margional success I dont think a guy with a 1.4 whip mostly in the national league is anything to write home about.

    • Virginia Yank says:

      Chan Ho is Korean.

    • The Constant Gardner says:

      Good thing Darvish is half Iranian…..

  3. Reggie C. says:

    The posting fee set-up isn’t a clear advantage for the Yankees organization and that’s probably the reason why Cashman dislikes it. Its not a simple waste of money if the talent is Yu Darvish. Its simply not competitive bc the bids are known only to the Japanese team and can’t be improved upon.

    By end of 2011, Cashman will know what he’s got in Brackman and Banny. hopefully Betances would have shown more than flashes of dominance and have pitched 140 innings at the level we all think he can deliver. Realistically, we’re hoping ONE of the Bs can take the 5 spot in 2012.

    That still means we’re short one pitcher to replace PETTITTE (if he returns). That’s gotta be Darvish.

    • Tom Swift says:

      Do the rules permit a negotiated trade, including for cash consideration? If the auction format stymies bidding, a Japanese team might be better off talking to two or three potential US bidders outside the auction process and working out a deal that way.

    • Aaron S. says:

      Bids are actually only known by the Commissioner’s Office. The Japanese club only is told of the highest bid amount and then can choose to accept or reject it. They are not privied to all of the bid amounts that were submitted.

  4. awy says:

    how hard does he throw now

  5. Aj says:

    The kid is 24 and incredible, I’ll take my chances. I think there’s a good possibility that the 2011 Yankees look a lot like 2008, where they may miss the playoffs or get bounced in the first round and then proceed to go bananas in the 2012 free agency. Problem is, unless they’re going to throw a lot of money at Jose Bautista, Wandy Rodriguez or Mark Buehrle, there’s not much to go nuts for. And even those three are going to demand a premium.

    • kmarx says:

      The current 2013 free agency class looks very nice.

    • tomaconda says:

      Hes 24 and Incredible while pitching in Japan. Matsuzaka’s 25 yr old season included a .9 whip 9.66k/9 and 1.64 bb/9. His 29yr old seaon in mlb he pitched to a 4.69 era, 4.33 bb/9 and 7.79 k/9. Hes been worth less than 2 war in the last two year. Not worth spending 100 mil + on the unknown.

      • Steve H says:

        But Darvish is not Dice-K. Using Japanese stats is like using MiLB stats, it doesn’t make for a great comparison.

        • Zack says:

          “Who needs a gyroball? He has six pitches that grade out as plus or plus-plus at their best, and he’ll be the best Japanese import ever. And no, we’re not forgetting about Ichiro.”

          That’s for DiceK. It was hyperbole back then, and it’s back again for Darvish. And it’s not about being Japanese, it’s about the past scouting reports that haven’t lived up.

          • tomaconda says:

            and in all due respect to Matsuzaka he pitched alot better before he was injured. Again I’m not saying Darvish couldn’t succeed just that I dont beleive its worth the dough!

            • Zack says:

              His xFIPs: 4.31, 4.70, 4.83, 4.73
              His first DL came in June during his 2nd year. His xFIP in Apr/May was 4.59 and 5.75 in 63IP, after his DL it was 4.86, 4.09, 4.10 in 97 IP.

              Maybe it was just the league figured him out after a year- be patient and let the guy throw 120 pitches in 5 innings.

          • Steve H says:

            Scouts get it wrong often. Maybe Dice-K being 20 pounds overweight has something to do with it. Maybe Dice-K not wanting to get on the Red Sox pitching program has something to do with it. Scouts are not perfect.

            • Zack says:

              Those scouts we usually talk about are dealing with 18-21 year olds when it is about projection phyiscal growth/development/metal to wood/etc. Saying he has 6 pitches that are plus or plus-plus is a different.

              Was DiceK overweight the first 2 seasons? Maybe he’s overweight now, but did you ever see 6 plus or plus-plus pitches?

              • Mike HC says:

                Yes, the scouts claimed that Dice-K had like six plus pitches, and even went as far to claim he has a mystery “gyroball” pitch, that really turned out to be a “meatball” instead.

  6. Dr. O says:

    With all due respect to the guy, the only thing I ever want to hear Cashman say about posting fees is “no comment”

  7. Jerome S. says:

    For comparisons sake, how was Daisuke in Japan?

  8. Gonzo says:

    I always thought the new way to send players to the US should be more like this. Let the player negotiate with every team and then have the fee be based on the best negotiated contract.

    • Mattchu12 says:

      Personally, I vote we just forgo the Posting System and do it old school. When they’ve put in their ten years of service time, they can negotiate freely like Hideki Matsui did.

      The Posting System just seems like a way for at least one side to get hurt whether it be the MLB team, the Japanese team, or the player in question. Some of these players want to win, but they get put on crappy teams. Even though it more or less worked out, do you think Akinori Iwamura was happy to end up with the Rays?

  9. YankeesJunkie says:

    Would you ever invest $100+ million on basically a player who has pitched as high as AAA. I would not, he has not proven himself at the highest level of competition and differences such as pitching schedules is always a cause for concern. While this is out of Darvish’s control it is still something that has to be considered.

  10. Steve H says:

    Saying they shouldn’t get Darvish because of Dice-K is like saying the Nationals shouldn’t have drafted Strasburg because of Ben McDonald.

    I’m not necessarily pro-Yu, but I don’t think you can rule him out because Hideki Irabu was a bust or because Dice-K has struggled. Interestingly enough, both Dice-K and Irabu had conditioning issues, which very well could have lead to them being less than expected.

    • tomaconda says:

      Strasburg didn’t cast 130mil!!!

      • tomaconda says:


      • GermanYankee says:

        nobody says Darvish will. During the season Newman wrote that he expects a posting fee around 30. U expect him to sign a Cliff Lee contract? I don’t think anybody will offer much more than 5/60, more likely 4/48 imo. Look what the A’s offered Iwakuma and he’s one of the best pitchers in NPB. No way Darvish and the Fighters will get something similar like Dice-K and the Lions did even though Darvish is without a doubt the better pitcher.

        I’m only worried about Darvish’s workload and he seems to be more fragile than described. Yeah he pitches a lot of innings but he misses some games every now and then. He’s pitched more than 25 games just once in 6 seasons. We also shouldn’t forget that he had pain while pitching sometimes this season. I think he had trouble with his knee or his back (can’t remember). The very first game after he admitted to have pain was 2-3 days later and he had to throw more than 140 pitches. That was pretty sick.

        I really like Darvish and I think if he can stay healthy then he’ll have way more success than Dice-K. But I’m pretty sure he’ll have to pay the price for his massive workload in a few years. Maybe I’m wrong but that’s my opinion.

  11. LarryM.,Fl. says:

    I was not unhappy when Lee picked to sign with the the Phillies. The guestimate of 130 million maybe correct or at least 100 million for the total for Darvish.

    I prefer from within the org. and proven signings from the MLB especially when considering foreign pitchers. Hitters from the Asian Leagues seem to hold their own very nicely. 130 million can give us multiple oppts. at pitchers bot in FA, drafts and trades. Patience.

  12. J_Yankees says:

    The fact that Yu has a FB he trusts and can ramp up to 95-96 puts him in a league above most (if not all) Japanese pitchers, IMO. It should make the transition easier. We have seen other Japanes pitchers come stateside and run into a wall because they don’t trust their FB. They go offspeed, offspeed, offspeed and the hitters don’t bite like they do in Japan and their pitch counts go thru the roof and/or when they go back to the FB they get clobbered because they don’t have any confidence in it.

    We hear the phrase, “Working backwards” a lot w/ Japanes pitchers. Offspeed stuff early in the count and harder stuff late. And while that can work here in the ML at times, it’s not something that you can have prolonged success with, IMO. The FB is still king and everything else in a pitchers repertoire needs to work off his FB. Having a FB, be it a 4 seamer or something w/ some bit, that a pitcher has confidence in is still key.

    By all indications Yu Darvish knows he has a good FB and has confidence in it which makes me a believer in his success as a pitcher being able to transition stateside. Assuming he remains healthy next season i don’t see why the Yankees shouldn’t go all out for him.

    • Gonzo says:

      What are the stats on Japanese pitchers losing mph on their fastball when moving to a 5 man rotation. Thought I saw this somewhere. If Yu loses some steam off his FB, is he still worth it?

      • J_Yankees says:

        I would love to see those stats if you can dig them up. Be very interesting.

        I’d be inclined to say, “Yes he’d still be worth it.” If he does lose some velo and he’s sitting at 91ish and can get up to 94-95 when he really needs i still like his ability to be successful. He might have to turn to the FB with movement a little more often but plenty of pitchers can have success without big time heat on their FB. That’s because they have confidence in the pitch and they still throw it with conviction.

    • tomaconda says:

      So you would Pony up 130mil if you owned the Yankees?

  13. Mike HC says:

    I would not be willing to spend that much money on an unknown at this point. It has been proven that success in Japan does not equal success in MLB. With Darvish, it seems like he would clearly be a legitimate MLB starter, but I highly doubt he is worth well over 100 million dollars. He is almost assuredly not worth even close to that. It depends on how desperate the Yanks get for starting pitching between now and his posting.

  14. Jess says:

    I don’t think the Mets will spend once those three contacts come off the books. There seems to be some legitimate concerns about their finances. And some of that money coming off the books will have to go back into Reyes who will want a lot of money since he is a FA after 2011. Mike Pelfrey will also jump in salary. 2011 will be his first arbitration eligible season. He’ll go from under a million to maybe 10 million.

  15. Preston says:

    I don’t know that the Yankees will have that much competition for Darvish, the Red Sox have a lot of money commited to their rotation and will have holes to fill in right and DH, as well as to start paying A-Gon, will they really pay a 50 million posting fee. The Angels have money but have been hesitant to invest that much in one player. Basically the Mets are the only other contender for Yu, and Sandy Alderson is not Omar Minaya he isn’t going to overpay extravagantly.

    • Chris says:

      It would have been interesting to see what would’ve happened this year if Darvish were posted because I think Cashman wouldn’t have had much of a choice other than throw a huge bid out there.

    • Matt says:

      I can’t recall one free agent the Yankees wanted that went to the Mets instead. Beltran practically begged the Yankees to make him an offer.

  16. Chris says:

    It’s way premature to think about Yu Darvish at this point, however if Burnett can’t turn things around and if no one from the Killer B’s, Phelps, Noesi, Warren and Nova group steps up and shows they can be a solid number 2 starter, I’d rather sink some money into Darvish and take my chances rather than trading the farm for some back of the rotation guy like Buerhle or Wandy Rodriguez.

  17. David says:

    Is the Japanese baseball a different weight than US ball? I know it’s smaller, so I’m thinking it’s a bit lighter too, would it be enough difference to change the fastball velocity stat? – i.e. If he sits at 92 and touches 95, would a heavier ball translate to sitting 90 and touching 93?

  18. George says:

    Irabu was really a different pitcher in Japan with the Chiba Lotte Marines . When he came to the states his velocity was way down , breaking balls not as sharp , and his conditioning was poor . In japan he would routinely get the fastball 94-97 mph (98,99 mph on occasion ) and wasn’t a fat toad ! No really here is proof !

    The ball is a tad bit smaller in Japan, but the real difference is the texture of the ball which enhances grip thus allowing improved breaking balls .

    I think Yu is worth the gamble BTW !

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