Hot Stove Targeting: Yu Darvish
After re-signing CC Sabathia in early November, Brian Cashman announced his OffSeason goal was “Pitching, pitching, pitching.” Yet he has remained very patient and constantly said that the price for starting pitchers in Free Agency and the trade market was unreasonably high. Although that is very true, could it be that Cashman has stalled so he can first take a shot at his most coveted target …….Yu Darvish?
By now, everyone has read a ton about Yu but let’s analyze his pros & cons to see if he’s worth the high cash commitment it will take to get him.
Yu Darvish is the most dominating pitcher in Japanese baseball with 5 straight seasons of sub-2.00 ERAs. It’s very difficult to translate NPB stats to MLB, but to give an idea of his dominance, Yu is 76-28 with a 1.73 ERA. This season was his best as he went 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA , 10.7 K/9, 1.4 BB/9 and a miniscule 0.83 WHIP over 232 IP.
Once again, stats in Japan don’t translate well in the U.S. so it’s best to look at Yu from a scouting standpoint. From the videos I’ve seen and the scouting reports I’ve read, this is what I would say about him:
- He’s a 25-year-old who really matured physically in the last 2 yrs. Films from early in his career were of a tall, lanky kid but it’s obvious he’s worked hard to add strength and he’s now a solid built 6’5″ 220 pounder with long arms & legs, a strong base and trunk – really an ideal pitcher’s body.
- His solid base gives him good balance which he uses to maintain his delivery. He has a fluid throwing motion with a slight pause that adds deception.
- Darvish has a Plus-Fastball that sits in the 93-95 range and gets it up to 96-97. He also throws a nice 2-seamer which is only about 1 MPH slower and gets good movement down and in on righties. Darvish also Cuts his Fastball away from righties in the 89-92 range
- His Slider is his best pitch and a true out-pitch. He seems to change speeds on it, sometimes throwing a slower Slurve in the 79 to 82 range but its most effective when thrown harder with 2-plane break in the 83-86 range.
- Yu throws both a Forkball and a standard ChangeUp that appear to be above average offerings as well
- His balance and repeatable mechanics give him good command of his pitches and he attacks hitters. Scouts have raved about his knowledge of pitching, pitchability and his competitiveness. All great attributes.
There are really no negatives to his game. All of the questions surrounding him are the typical ones that face any pitcher looking to make the jump from japan to the U.S. How will he adjust to the different baseball, the 5-day rotation, the MLB hitters and the American culture.
While these are all legitimate concerns, I believe Yu is the best prepared of any Japanese pitcher to come to the U.S. ever. For one, he is still young enough to be able to adapt his routines and game as needed. Secondly, he is a big, strong power pitcher with command who’s stuff should translate nicely to MLB. Unlike DiceK who relied on deception and multiple off-speed pitches to get hitters to chase, Darvish comes right at hitters with stuff that will give any hitter a hard time. He’s also been much more dominating in Japan than DiceK ever was.
|2005||18||Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters||5||5||0||3.53||14||94.1||52|
|2006||19||Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters||12||5||0||2.89||25||149.2||115|
|2007||20||Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters||15||5||0||1.82||26||207.2||210|
|2008||21||Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters||16||4||0||1.88||25||200.2||208|
|2009||22||Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters||15||5||0||1.73||23||182.0||167|
|2010||23||Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters||12||8||0||1.78||26||202.0||222|
|2011||24||Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters||18||6||0||1.44||28||232.0||276|
Of course he won’t dominate MLB hitters with a 1.44 ERA but I expect Darvish to have success right away and fall in as a solid #2 starter with ace potential when he reaches his prime. He’s still only 25 and growing as a pitcher so we still haven’t seen his best yet. While the change to a 5-day rotation will take getting used to, I see Darvish as an eventual horse who could be a durable 200+ IP per year starter.
Fit for the Yankees?
Darvish is just what the Yankees need. A big, strong, young, smart starter to slot in behind C.C. for the next 5-6 years. The Yankee brass has been watching Yu for at least 3 years that we know of and everyone from scout Rick Williams to Director of Pro Scouting Billy Eppler to VP of Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer have watched him pitch in Japan. While Cashman is rightfully downplaying his interest in Darvish, he has conceded that he learned from his mistakes with Kei Igawa and made sure to get a full picture this time with numerous scouting reports and many different sets of eyes on him. “I think with anything else, you learn over time. I think we’re more prepared today than we have been in the past”, Cashman remarked when asked about Darvish.
Cost to Acquire
The bidding process is an archaic concept and a total crapshoot. So as much as the Yankees may want him, there is no guarantee some team like the Marlins or Nationals doesn’t make a ridiculous bid that the Yanks will never have an opportunity to beat. You get one shot at it. It’s very difficult to estimate but I think the winning bid is going to be somewhere around the Matsuzaka bid and will be in the $40-60 Million range.
Once the posting fee is paid, Arn Tellem & Don Nomura will look to negotiate the best deal for him and I’d estimate it being a 5 or 6 year deal worth about $10-13 Million per yr. So I’d say the total outlay will be in the neighborhood of $100-130M. When you consider that the posting fee doesn’t count towards the Luxury tax, it would seem that the total cost of signing Darvish would be the same or less than signing C.J. Wilson to a 6 yr – $100M+ deal. Athough CJ has MLB experience, he’s also 6 full years older than Darvish and about to enter the downside of his career while the Yanks would be getting the 6 most prime seasons in a pitcher’s career from Yu.
The other obvious advantages of obtaining Darvish, is Cashman won’t have to give up any draft picks like he would for a FA or any prospects like he’d have to ship off in a trade. Also, the fact that Darvish’ salary will be significantly lower than a prime FA like CJ Wilson, it gives the team at least a chance to get the payroll under $189M for the 2014 season. While this will be an extremely difficult chore and will preclude any other big-ticket signings for the next 3 years, it’s still a possibility.
And last but not least, there is the WOW factor and the instant media attention any team who gets Darvish will get. Yu Darvish is an icon in Japan much like Hideki Matsui & Ichiro were so his new team will see added attendance and attention from Japanese fans and advertisers. This is definitely important for any team.
I think Darvish is worth the risk since the Yanks potentially get the #2 they desperately need while keeping all their prospects, picks and keeping the total salary under control. The big risk is the large posting fee but money is the Yankees #1 asset so why not use it? They won’t be able to use it in the Draft or International Amateur market any longer so this is the chance to flex the financial muscle they have. How much would they pay to acquire a Matt Cain, Josh Johnson, Stephen Strasburg or Felix Hernandez? Darvish compares favorably with those guys from a size, scouting and age standpoint – the only thing he lacks is the proof that he can succeed in MLB.
I think the Yanks will bid highly for Darvish as I think he’s their #1 target this yr. However, teams like Texas, Washington, Toronto & Florida have also been linked as front-runners. I wouldn’t rule out any team here. What about the Red Sox? Bobby Valentine coached in Japan for years and he said on a broadcast this year that Yu Darvish was the BEST pitcher in the WORLD! So if Bobby V. feels that strongly, you know he’s trying to lobby Boston to bid heavily. Then you have teams like Toronto, Texas & Florida who all are said to be raising payroll significantly this yr. And how about Epstein in Chicago? Or maybe the Angels if they miss on CJ….the possibilities are endless and the process gives any team a chance.
If you were the Yanks, what would be your bid and what will the winning bid be? I’d bid……$55,000,055 if I were Cashman but I have a feeling some crazy team will bid over $60 Million.