It went down to the bottom of the ninth inning, but the Texas Rangers managed to land Yu Darvish, the top pitcher in Japan, on Wednesday.
He agreed to a six-year deal worth roughly $60 million shortly before the Rangers’ 30-day exclusive negotiating window would have closed at 5 p.m. EST Wednesday. Darvish’s deal reportedly includes $56 million guaranteed and, in addition, the Rangers will send a $51.7 million posting bid to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. Texas won the right to negotiate with Darvish in December and, had there been no deal, he would have returned to Japan.
“The Rangers have always shown the most interest in him for years, and have established a real connection with him and his family,” Arn Tellem, Darvish’s agent, said. “You hoped they would be the ones to win the posting bid for him, and when they did, he was absolutely thrilled.”
Darvish, 25, is an $111 million investment for the Rangers, who have won the American League pennant the last two seasons but have had to replace staff ace Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson. A superstar in Japan, Darvish was 18-6 with a 1.44 earned run average and 276 strikeouts in 232 innings over 28 games. In seven seasons, he has a 93-38 record with a 1.99 ERA in 167 games.
“The thing that stood out probably is just his passion for the game and trying to be the best he can possibly be,” said Nolan Ryan, the Rangers’ president and cattleman who was swayed when he saw Darvish eat an enormous steak. “He's probably the most upside player I've ever seen come out of Japan.”
Immediately, the signing keeps the Rangers in the news and continues to heighten their visibility. So, too, did speculation about whether the Rangers would end up with Prince Fielder, which seemingly ends now. The Post’s Adam Kilgore writes that that makes the Nationals the favored landing spot for Fielder. No matter, Jon Paul Morosi writes, all the headlines made for a win-win situation for Texas.
The Darvish/Fielder pursuit has been the healthiest way for the Rangers to cope with coming within a Lone Strike of a world title. It’s also the latest chapter in a surprising trend: The Rangers are one of the most-talked-about baseball teams in America, not far behind the rich East Coast franchises. In a sport followed most closely on the local and regional levels, the team from Arlington has become familiar to even casual American sports fans.
In the long run, will the Rangers win a third straight AL pennant this year?
Nationals Journal: Favored in the Prince Fielder sweepstakes
Early Lead: Rangers win rights to Darvish