If Japanese Ace Yu Darvish is Available this Winter, Should the Cubs Go After Him?

The Daisuke Matsuzaka sweepstakes were exciting, if nothing else.

Even conceptually, the idea that teams were bidding to have the rights to negotiate with an international superstar – the best pitcher in the world, some said – was different and cool. How much would it cost just to talk to the guy? $10 million? $20 million? No. $51 million. This guy is going to be the pitching equivalent of Ichiro. Except better! With sprinkles!

Ah, but hype has a way of generating its own momentum; momentum that only hindsight can squash.

At the end of the day, the Red Sox have paid almost $100 million for one great season and a bunch of headaches. I doubt anyone would suggest the Red Sox are happy with the way that signing played out.

And, if it’s possible, Yu Darvish is more hyped than Daisuke was.

Darvish, who turns 25 next week, is one of the best pitchers in Japan, and the staff ace of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (if the name sounds familiar, it’s the land of wind and ghosts to which AAAA lifers Micah Hoffpauir and Bobby Scales were banished earlier this year). He could have come to the States after graduating high school in 2004, but elected instead to go pro in Japan.

There, he’s been a phenomenal success (though he still makes only $4 to 5 million per year), with a career ERA just above two, a WHIP just over one, and a K/9 just under nine. And he’s done all that as a teenager and an early-20-something. There’s no doubt that the kid is good.

But is he worth risking the Matsuzaka mistake?

Phil Rogers says the Cubs should seriously consider making a run at Darvish if his team decides to post him this Winter (Darvish won’t be a free agent for a while yet, so the only way he’s coming Stateside is if his team decides to sell him). And, in a vacuum, I agree.

Why wouldn’t you want to take a chance on a lottery ticket like Darvish? Expecting him to duplicate his Japanese results in MLB would be a mistake, but there’s no reason to be certain he couldn’t be a good Major League starter. In case this year didn’t shock your system to the truth: those guys can be pretty hard to find.

I say I would agree in a vacuum, because the money’s the thing. It always is.

I doubt a team is going to do the $50+ million posting thing again (and then another $50 million for the contract), but would $25 million be excessive? That would buy your team the exclusive right to make a deal with Darvish for six years. If he gets the $50ish million that Matsuzaka got on a contract, that’s a $75 million investment for six (prime) years of control. Would you sign Darvish, today, to a six-year, $75 million contract? I’m not sure what I would do, but it’s certainly an interesting discussion.

For now, we’ll have to wait and see if he’s posted this Winter, and, if he is, whether the Cubs will sniff around at the bidding. It seems likely that they would, not only because of their need for pitching, but because true Japanese superstars like Darvish can offer teams in a large market additional revenue streams. For what it’s worth, MLBTR recently confirmed that Darvish does have American representation on the agent side. It would seem silly to have such an arrangement if it was out of the realm of possibility that you’d be coming over to the States in the near term.

I’m hoping Darvish’s team decides to post him this year if for no other reason than, like with Daisuke, it would be pretty exciting to discuss and watch unfold.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

33 responses to “If Japanese Ace Yu Darvish is Available this Winter, Should the Cubs Go After Him?”

  1. Johnny

    No more [racial slur].

    [Edited for open racism. Damn, I hate editing comments, but that's just ridiculous, and not cool around here.]

    1. TWC

      Seriously? That’s gonna fly around here? Super lame, dude.

    2. RoughRiider

      11 score and 15 years ago “our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”

  2. CubsFanatic

    I’d want to see him in action in person first before offering anything. I’d say $20M should be it to just talk with him. Anything more than to just talk with someone is ridiculous. I don’t know about this anyway. Daisuke and Fukudome weer supposed to be able to help teams out and look whats happened. I’d say if we could get him for 6-8 million per year at three years, I wouldn’t mind seeing us run for him.

  3. Dan0mite

    Eveything I’ve seen (which isn’t much) is that the Rangers are the front runners to land him.

  4. Jason

    No No No I think Posting Fees are outrageous !!! Nothing against the Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish but 20 Million Posting Fee plus that doesn’t mean you get to sign him you have to kick in a ton more money to sign him. I would rather spend the money where you can get 2 to 3 quality players instead of 1 Japanese Pitcher

  5. Fishin Phil

    No. Just no.

  6. miggy80

    If that $75m dallor situation is in front of me I go for it and pull my name out of the Fielder/Pujols sweepstakes

  7. EQ

    I hope we learned our lesson with Fukudome.. Ichiro was a one time thing.. every other Japanese player has busted..(in comparison to what they cost to get) shoot, so has every Asian player.. Hee Sop Choi anybody?? This guy will probably be good or decent.. I can see him going to a good team and winning 10-15 games with a mid-4′s era.. is that worth the money?? heck no!

    1. Hogie

      Hideki Matsui
      Takashi Saito
      Hiroki Kuroda
      Hideo Nomo

      Those are just from Japan, for starters.

      This is not a vote to throw money at Darvish, but let’s not act like there hasn’t been talent, and continues to be talent, coming from Asian baseball. I seem to remember a Korean shortstop that was one of the top prospects in our system.

      1. willis

        You forgot that dude who just offed himself…what was his name? Steinbrenner called him a whale or fat or something. Irabu? Yes that’s it, Irabu. He sucked too.

        I say no.

      2. EQ

        Hee Sop Choi was the Korean prospect.. I mentioned him above..

        1. Hogie

          Hak-Ju Lee was the prospect I was reffering to, Choi was a first baseman.

          I agree that we don’t need to go too hard after him. I was just pointing out that to say that every Asian player not named Ichiro has been a bust is a little ignorant.

          Willis- Classy move to mock a dead man, adds a ton of credibility to your statement as well.

  8. Chris

    Nippon-Ham Fighters is still one of my favorite team names.

    But in response to the post, I say no. Let the other teams fight for him. While it might work out for them, I think the Cubs have other fish to fry first.

    1. Mike Foster

      Good point Chris. I’m just not excited about paying the import tax, it just encourages more of the same circus (sorry Bret, I know you want to see the circus). We could us that money to sign someone.

  9. Jeff

    I am not in favor of doing this at all. I like the idea of getting someone that could be as good as Darvish could be, but this guy has a lot of wear for a 25 year old. Japanese kids grow up with baseball, and pretty much only baseball. From what I understand, most teams (high school, little league, etc) only have one pitcher, who pitches pretty much all the time, and they play throughout the year. There is a good possibility this guy has been pitching 200 innings a year for 10+ years already. He is younger than Daisuke was, but I think it’s a huge risk. Not because of the unknown, because you can pretty much translate his pitching talent through speed, movement, and watching how he handles tough situations. I am worried that he’ll get here and be on the DL 3 times a year and flame out before the end of his contract.

    1. Fishin Phil

      ” I am worried that he’ll get here and be on the DL 3 times a year and flame out before the end of his contract.”

      What are the odds of something like that happening to the Cubs??

  10. Sean C

    Over his last 4 years (Baseball reference only has the last 4 years), Darvish has posted an ERA under 1.90, a WHIP under 0.90 (except for last year he had a whopping 1.02) and K/9 over 9. This is markedly better than what Matsuzaka ever did in Japan and Matsuzaka did have a season where he was a top Cy Young candidate in the AL. If they got away with a posting fee of $30 mill and a $40 mill/4 year contract, that averages out to about what Zambrano makes anually. I think I’d take that.

  11. EQ

    if it comes out to $10 mil to $12 mil a year, It could be worth it.. but how about a 2-3 year deal with a team option?? I think the risk is more in the years of a contract… I mean, Fukudome for 2 years wouldn’t be as bad a move as the 4 years we gave him..

  12. RoughRiider

    I would rather see them spend money on finding and developing players than spend that kind of money on a player who at the most will be in 32 – 35 games a year.

  13. Mike

    I’m not too sure about this one. When the last big push from Japan came there was soo much hype. None of those people were any long term success. I thought Fukudome was a good choice and turned out to be one of the most predictable players in history. Still was a great outfielder with an accurate arm (as much as I love Marlon Byrd, his arm is crap) but he will only be remembered for his horrid July-Sept numbers. Not really sure if I would spend that much money again on an unproven talent in the majors.

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