Mailbag & Poll: Darvish vs. Pineda

(REUTERS/Darrell Byers)

Jesse asks: What are your thoughts on the theory that the reason Cashman did not go all in for Darvish is not because he didn’t like the idea of an imported pitcher, but because there were already rumblings of Pineda in pinstripes?

I’m not sure I buy that. Both Brian Cashman and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik have acknowledged that talks about the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda trade started at the winter meetings, which was just about a week before Yu Darvish was officially posted. We all knew he was going to posted so it wasn’t some big surprise, it was just a matter of when. The Yankees most likely had made up their mind about whether or not to pursue him well in advance of the meetings and submitting their $15M bid. I can’t imagine it was a spur of the moment thing.

I don’t think their half-hearted attempt to acquire Darvish had to do with anything more than their questions about his ability to succeed in MLB, with a new ball, a new mound, smaller stadiums, better hitters, a five-day rotation, etc. If they had truly wanted him, Pineda wouldn’t have stopped them. Trade talks were still in the early stages back then and weren’t guaranteed to work out, so they could have gone down both paths and determined which was the better fit at a later time. Passing on Darvish because of Pineda could have easily resulted in them getting neither pitcher.

I’d much rather have Darvish and Montero than Pineda and [insert random DH here], but these things don’t happen in a vacuum. It would have taken over $100M to land Darvish, who isn’t a sure thing. Pineda isn’t either, but he’s also making the league minimum and has an above-average MLB season under his belt. Nine-figure Darvish and dirt cheap Montero for the next six years, or dirt cheap Pineda and say a $5M DH for the next five years? I was a big proponent of pursuing Darvish (not my money!) and there’s a lot more upside in option #1, but also substantially more risk because of the money involved. I can understand why the team went with door #2 even if I don’t necessarily agree with it. This calls for a poll…

Which would you rather have?
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Updated: Yankees bid $15M for Darvish

Jan. 3rd: Just for the sake of completeness, here’s an update to let you know that the Yankees bid exactly $15M for Darvish according to Jon Heyman. You can now go back to your regularly scheduling complaining about the pitching staff.

Dec. 22nd: Via Jon Heyman, the Yankees bid somewhere between $15-17M for Darvish. Various reports also indicate that no team was even close to the Rangers, who apparently blew away the field with their $51.7M bid. This whole thing is reminiscent of the Daisuke Matsuzaka bidding, when it was the Red Sox (big gap) everyone else.

Dec. 20th: Via Andrew Marchand, the Yankees bid less than $20M for Yu Darvish. The Rangers won the right-hander’s negotiating rights with a $51.7M bid, so the Yankees weren’t even in the same ballpark. This morning we heard that they submitted their bid with the idea that he could fall into their laps if other clubs were tapped out this late in the winter, but obviously that didn’t happen. Marchand says the Yankees just weren’t sold on how Darvish’s stuff and makeup would translate over from Japan, and I guess you have to be sure if you’re going to invest nine-figures.

Remember Hideki’s arrival as Darvish slips away

All of the recent brouhaha over Yu Darvish, I got to thinking about Hideki Matsui. Unlike many high-profile Japanese players who made the jump to the states, Matsui hit the Majors as an unrestricted free agent. There was no blind bidding process and subsequent negotiation. Hideki was free to pick whatever team he wanted. It almost made sense.

For Darvish, the decision to push his team to post him was a calculated risk. As ESPN.com’s Patrick Newman and Eno Sarris showed (in an Insider-only piece) on Tuesday, Darvish probably could have made more had he waited a few more years. If his deal with the Rangers ends up being at an annual level of around $12 million, there’s a good chance he would earn more in the long term by returning to Japan this year and entering the States via bidding process. Teams wouldn’t have to pony over sunk dollars on a posting fee, and Darvish would stand to make all of the money from his contract.

Yet, the allure of guaranteed dollars is a tough one to resist. It’s why pitchers are willing to sign seemingly below-market deals earlier in their careers. The threat of injury lurks, and easy access to millions is too tempting to turn down. Darvish will sign a deal that locks him up for five or six years, but if he’s as good as advertised, he’ll cash in again in his early 30s. That said, he would be wise to sign a high-dollar, low-year deal with the Rangers and hit free agency at 29. Texas, though, would rather lock him up for longer.

Anyway, I digress. The erstwhile World Series MVP was my original focus. I realized a few days ago, as the Yanks continued through a silent off-season, that I missed Matsui. Now, I don’t believe the Yanks should bring him back, but I miss his presence in left field and his bat in the lineup. Bring back the glory days of Matsui, the player who hit .292/.370/.482 on the Yanks, and I’ll be happy.

So how anyway did the Yanks land Hideki? It was the more traditional path. By the end of 2001, Matsui’s name was bandied about as a future Major Leaguer. He was the highest paid Japanese player at the time, and the next stop for him would be the States. The first time the Yanks were tied to him arrived in August of 2002 when Jack Curry reported that Jean Afterman was scouting Matsui. Over the next few months, rumors of the Yanks’ interest hit the news. Would the Bombers land both Jose Contreras and Hideki Matsui prior to 2003?

Hideki was a new — and seemingly rare — breed of Japanese players. He used a quick bat to pull the ball and was a power hitter more in the American baseball mode. As the offseason wore on, both the Yankees and the Mets emerged as potential suitors for Matsui’s services. As the Yankees tried to determine if they wanted Bartolo Colon or Roger Clemens for 2003, they stepped up their pursuit of Matsui as well, and by mid-December, they seemed poised to land him for three years and $20-21 million. It was an easy negotiation and an easy deal. Godzilla came to New York.

Since Matsui’s arrival, no Japanese player has made quite the same impact on Major League Baseball. Daisuke Matsuzaka and, to a greater extent, Kei Igawa failed to deliver as advertised, and no power hitters or All Star position players in the Ichiro or Matsui mold have arrived on U.S. soil. Now, it’s Darvish’s turn, and in Texas, where the defending AL Champs are in bad need of pitching, he’ll get a chance to star. The whole world will be watching.

Yu Can’t Always Get What Yu Want

(Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

After months … hell, years of speculation, the Yu Darvish saga officially came to an end last night, at least as far as the Yankees as concerned. It was announced Monday night that the Texas Rangers won the negotiating rights to the Japanese right-hander with a $51.7M bid, the largest ever submitted in the relatively brief history of the posting process. The Rangers obviously decided Darvish would be a better investment than C.J. Wilson, a pretty darn good pitcher they know better than anyone. The Yankees, on the other hand, didn’t seem all that interested in getting involved in a bidding war.

Soon after the news broke, Marc Carig reported that the Yankees submitted what was essentially a safety bid. If other teams were tapped out financially this late in the offseason and Darvish fell into their laps, then great. Those were the terms under which they were willing to add the guy to their team. That obviously didn’t happen though, and it sure doesn’t seem like the Yankees will be terribly disappointed. They’ve been very passive in their pursuit of pitching this offseason, at least big name pitching like Darvish, Wilson, and Mark Buehrle. Call them cheap if you want, just don’t expect me to take you seriously if you do.

“I think like with anything else you learn over time … I think we’re more prepared today than we have been in the past,” said Brian Cashman when asked about the possibility of pursuing Darvish during his end-of-season press conference last month, obviously alluding to the Kei Igawa disaster. Cashman and then-manager Joe Torre reportedly had to ask Igawa what his best pitch was during his first season in New York, a clear sign they didn’t do their homework and based their decision to pursue the guy on emotional reaction rather than informed opinion. Emotional reactions are pretty much the worst kind of reactions, especially when it comes to making baseball decisions, but the Yankees have definitely moved away from that type of thinking in recent years. If they hadn’t, Jesus Montero would have been long gone, traded for whatever the flavor of the week was after Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies.

We know the Yankees had been scouting Darvish since at least 2008, so they certainly did their homework this time around. Special advisor and former GM Gene Michael saw him, both scouting directors Billy Eppler (pro) and Damon Oppenheimer (amateur) saw him, I’m willing to bet former Padres and current D’Backs GM Kevin Towers saw him (at least on video) when he was on the staff last year, and I’m sure a small army of scouts and other advisors saw him as well. The Yankees gathered information over a long period of time and made their decision, exactly like they should have. We might not agree with the decision to not make an aggressive play for Darvish (I don’t), but there’s nothing we can do about it.

From here, nothing changes for the Yankees. They still need pitching, still need to shore up the bench, still need to add some general depth pieces, stuff like that. Unless they decide to dance with Scott Boras about Edwin Jackson, any starting pitching solution will likely come on a short-term, relatively low-risk deal, which is definitely preferable at this point. Darvish is risky, but he’s also incredibly talented. The kind of talent you’d usually roll the dice with. There’s a chance Cashman and Yankees will end up regretting their half-hearted pursuit of the righty, but I also don’t blame them for not submitting a bid north of $50M.

Rangers win rights to Yu Darvish with $51.7M bid

Via Jeff Passan, the Rangers have won the negotiating rights to Yu Darvish with a $51.7M bid. As expected, the bid is a new record for the posting process, topping the $51.1M the Red Sox paid to talk to Daisuke Matsuzaka five years ago. No word on what the Yankees bid, but I suspect we’ll find out soon enough.

After all the rumors of the Blue Jays being in the lead because of a monster bid, the Yankees won’t have to worry about facing Darvish six times a year every year for the next half-decade or so. The winning bid was higher than I expected, by about $10M, but what do I know? The Rangers and Darvish now have 30 days to negotiate a contract that will sure cost another $50M or so. With any luck, the rest of free agent pitching market will pick up some steam now and the Yankees can land a decent arm on a short-term deal.