The bidding period for the right to negotiate with heralded Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish closed Wednesday, and speclutation remains rampant as to which team ponied up the most money.
At least one team was willing to break the bank to try to bring the 6-foot-5 right-hander across the Pacific Ocean — and it might not be who you’d expect.
On Friday, the New York Post reported the Toronto Blue Jays are believed to have posted a bid between $40 and $50 million for the right to bring Darvish north of the border and continue to restructure a franchise that has not made the playoffs since 1993.
The Cubs are also suspected to have made a strong push for Darvish while the Yankees and Rangers were in the mix but are not believed to have approached Toronto’s bid.
Darvish’s longtime team, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, now have until 5 p.m. EST Tuesday to accept or reject the bid, all without knowing the team that submitted it.
Over his illustrious career, Darvish has posted a 93-38 career record with a 1.99 ERA, all in Japan. He was 18-6 last season with a 1.44 ERA and 276 strikeouts in 232 innings pitched.
Scouts have projected Darvish would demand a deal in the range of five years for $75 million. It’s a stiff price to pay for a relatively unknown quantity, but one a team looking to make a big splash and potentially land an ace to lead its rotation could find worthwhile.
The Toronto Sun’s Bob Elliot reports that Rogers Communications — which owns the Blue Jays — is willing to do whatever it takes to get Darvish to Toronto.
Elliot quoted one executive who said: “I was told that Rogers Communications said: ‘Whatever it costs, sign him.’”
Over the last two decades, a number of high-profile Japanese pitchers have joined the majors with mixed results. Hideo Nomo was the first Japanese-born player to leave Japan’s league for MLB in 1995 and quickly became a star with the Dodgers. He pitched for seven teams over 14 seasons in the majors, compiling a 123-109 record with a 4.24 ERA.
More recently, Daisuke Matsuzaka was signed by the Boston Red Sox and helped the team to the 2007 World Series title. But over the last three seasons he’s struggled with durability and consistency, posting an 18-15 record in 44 starts.
Darvish has five inches on Matsuzaka and is said to have better stuff, and new Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine — who once managed Darvish in Japan — recently told USA Today that “he’s one of the best” pitchers in baseball. Of course the Red Sox chose not to bid on Darvish after spending more than $100 million ($51 million for rights, $52 million contract) to get Matsuzaka in 2006.
Can you see Darvish leading the Blue Jays back into the thick of the AL East title hunt? Would Chicago be a better fit? Where will he end up?
More from Washington Post Sports:
Nationals Journal: Darvish deadline passes
Boswell: In baseball, how much is too much?