Via NPB Tracker on Twitter, we learn that the Yankees have sent Director of Professional Scouting Billy Eppler and VP of Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer, two of their top player evaluators, to Japan to check out the 24-year-old Yu Darvish. The right-handed Iranian Japanese pitcher is 10-6 on the season for the Nippon Ham Fighters with a 2.05 ERA. In 20 starts spanning 158 innings, he’s struck out 174 while allowing just 5 home runs and 40 walks. He reportedly features an array of pitches including an upper 90s fastball, a slider, a change, a curve and what the Japanese call a shuuto, and this isn’t the first time the Yanks have expressed interest in him. They sent scouts to watch him earlier in the season, in 2009 and 2008 as well.
Darvish’s situation will present an interesting test case for Japanese pitchers coming to America. He isn’t eligible to be an international free agent until after 2014 when he will be, at just 28 years old, entering his prime, and so far his numbers dictate a big payday. He has a career ERA of 2.18 with a career K/9 of 8.4 and a career K/BB of 3.2. In March, Jeff Passan speculated that Nippon Ham could get upwards of $75 million if they posted Darvish sooner rather than later and that Darvish’s arrival in the U.S. isn’t a matter of if but when, and when that day arrives, the Yankees will be in on him.