DALLAS -- Until Angels owner Arte Moreno decided to steal the show at the Winter Meetings this morning -- did you know the 325 million Moreno just gave to Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson is 145 million more than he paid to buy the entire franchise eight years ago?! -- the big story in town figured to be Yu Darvish's decision to bring his talents to the United States.
Darvish made it official late last night, posting on his personal blog that he has decided to use the posting system in place in Japan to make himself available to major-league clubs.
So, will the Nationals submit a bid for the 25-year-old right-hander? Mike Rizzo was coy about the subject when asked this morning following the Rule 5 draft.
"We're not going to comment on if we're going to submit a bid or not," the general manager said. "Strategically, it doesn't benefit us to announce if we're going to bid or not on him. We've scouted him. We recognize his ability levels."
The Nationals have been scouting Darvish for several years and have a strong opinion of him, so it's expected they will submit some kind of bid. How much they're willing to spend, however, remains a mystery.
The posting system gives teams four days to submit blind bids, simply for the rights to negotiate with Darvish. Darvish's Japanese club, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, then have four days to select a bid (typically the club that offers the most money).
Once the major-league club has been, Darvish and that team have 30 days to negotiate a contract. If they somehow don't come to terms, he would go back to the Fighters and the posting fee would be returned to the major-league club.
Darvish is expected to command a total package similar, and likely greater, than the one that brought Daisuke Matsuzaka to the Red Sox in 2006. The Red Sox wound up paying 51.1 million in a posting fee to the Seibu Lions, then gave Matsuzaka a six-year, 52 million contract.
Since they won't know how much other clubs are offering through the blind posting system, the Nationals will have to determine for themselves how much they're willing to spend.
"I think you have to first approximate what your tolerance threshold is on what you would pay him total, with the posting fee and a major-league contract," Rizzo said. "And you have to strategically put together a plan to: a) get the player in the post, and b) see if you can afford to get the player in the post, pay the posting fee and then sign the player to a major-league contract."
The track record for Japanese pitchers coming to the United States isn't strong. Hideo Nomo (123-109, 4.24 ERA in 318 career starts) is the only Japanese-born pitcher to win more than 51 games or make more than 200 starts in the big leagues. Matsuzaka is 49-30 with a 4.25 ERA in 105 career starts and is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Darvish, though, may be a different animal. The son of an Iranian father and a Japanese mother, the 6-foot-5 right-hander went 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA and 276 strikeouts this season. He throws as many as seven pitches, including a fastball clocked in the mid-90s, and was the ace of the Japanese national team that won the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
"I think he's got a complete package," Rizzo said. "He's a physical guy with stuff that knows how to pitch and has had success at a substantially high level of competition."