The Texas Rangers have perhaps taken themselves out of the running for Prince Fielder this week as the club has paid over $51 million to negotiate with Japanese star pitcher Yu Darvish.
The move is a bit of a high-priced gamble, as Rangers will now need to offer Darvish a contract on top of the money they paid to win the rights to offer him a contract.
In 2006, the Boston Red Sox signed Daisuke Matsuzaka to a six-year deal worth $52 million, which also included a $51 million bid. The Rangers may have to make a similar deal to have Darvish in the starting rotation, and they only have 30 days to do it.
Is Darvish worth an investment that may exceed $100 million?
The 25-year-old right-hander is a strikeout specialist, with a fastball that ranges between 92-95 miles per hour. He throws multiple pitches that includes a two-seam fastball, cutter, curveball, splitter, and change up.
However, his best pitch might be his hard slurve, which slows to about 80 mph. Darvish is also known for not conceding many walks.
A new pitcher can be devastating to opposing batters. Darvish already has plenty of experience in Japan, and could possibly go into the 2012 season as a Rookie of the Year favorite with his multiple pitches. Last season, Darvish pitched 232 innings, which is far more than most rookie pitchers are capable of pitching.
Darvish has already ditched his screwball, which he used up until 2006, as the pitch can cause arm problems. If the Rangers are looking for durability in a starter, they may have found it in Darvish.
Born to an Iranian father and Japanese mother, Darvish is a lanky 6'5. He was considered the best pitcher in the Japanese league, and had a 1.99 earned run average over seven seasons.
Major League Baseball teams have known about Darvish for quite some time. His arrival to North America has been the subject to a great deal of discussion and interest since watching him pitch in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
There have been several Japanese pitchers who have been a success in the Majors, such as Hideo Nomo, Hiroki Kuroda, Kazuhiro Sasaki, and Takashi Saito.
But there also have have been some busts. Hideki Irabu, Kaz Ishii, and Kei Igawa made little impact in their short stints. Despite one excellent season in 2008, Matsuzaka has failed to put up statistics that justify his contract, which mainly can be contributed to elbow problems that have sidelined him over the past three seasons.
The Texas rotation already boasts two Japanese relievers. Koji Uehara has a career 3.13 ERA in the Majors, with over 175 innings pitched. Yoshinori Tateyama is coming a 2011 season where he pitched 44 innings, and had a 4.50 ERA.
The Rangers were at one point considered a frontrunner to sign Fielder, who had a huge season in 2011. Texas appear to be placing a great deal amount of their future in Darvish. The money that could have gone to a slugger like Fielder is instead going to a pitcher, which is a break in the club's philosophy of stockpiling power hitters at the expense of a starting rotation.
With C.J. Wilson moving on to the Angels, the Rangers certainly need pitching. Darvish immediately vaults to a front-line starter, and perhaps an ace, should he sign with Texas.