Yu Darvish should focus on his pitching and not think about his new six-year contract or the record $51.7 million fee Texas will pay his Japanese club, Rangers President and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan said.
“What you hope is that he comes to spring training and that he’s comfortable and that he fits into the routine and doesn’t put a lot of pressure on himself to try to prove that he’s worthy of the consideration that he got,” Ryan said at a news conference announcing the team’s deal with Darvish. “We’re not going into spring training with these great expectations that he’s going to shine over everybody else.”
The Rangers didn’t disclose terms of the 25-year-old’s contract, which MLB.com said is worth approximately $60 million. Darvish has gone 93-38 with a 1.99 earned run average in seven seasons with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
Nippon Meat Packers, the parent company of the Fighters, said in a statement to the Tokyo Stock Exchange that it would receive the posting fee from the Rangers by Jan. 26. If the two sides had been unable to reach a deal by 5 p.m. Eastern time yesterday, Darvish would have returned to pitch in Japan and the Rangers would have gotten the money back.
The Rangers, who lost in the World Series the past two seasons, had 30 days to negotiate with Darvish and his agents after submitting the winning bid to negotiate on Dec. 19. The team’s offer surpassed the highest previous Major League Baseball posting fee for a Japanese player, the $51.1 million the Boston Red Sox bid in 2007 for pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Rangers executives said they don’t want to put too much pressure on the 6-foot-5 (2-meter) right-hander, who will be formally introduced by the team tomorrow.
Not Seeking Savior
“We’re not looking for a savior,” General Manager Jon Daniels told reporters in the news conference at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. “Just by the nature of this process -- by the international side of it, the attention that’s going to be on it -- there are some expectations that come with that, but we’re certainly not going to add to it.”
Darvish, who went 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA in 28 games for Nippon Ham last season, would join a rotation that includes Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando. Former reliever Neftali Feliz is being shifted into a starting role, a move that could lead Ogando to be used out of the bullpen next season.
The roster also includes Yoshinori Tateyama, a former Hokkaido teammate of Darvish. The pair pitched in the same game for the Fighters on 23 occasions from 2005 to 2010, the Rangers said in a statement on their website yesterday.
The Rangers begin spring training next month and open the season on April 6 at home against the Chicago White Sox.
Loss of Wilson
The addition of Darvish may help the Rangers offset the loss of their top starting pitcher, C.J. Wilson, who joined the Los Angeles Angels as a free agent last month.
“This is a major investment in a player that we think can help us get back to the World Series and can ultimately win it,” Daniels said.
Darvish led Japan’s Pacific League by striking out 276 batters in 232 innings last season. He throws nine types of pitches and has a fastball that usually reaches around 95 mph (153 kph), scouts said.
“He is a polished kid who can pound the strike zone and command the breaking ball,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “He’s got a great body and a great work ethic.”
Darvish’s stature, durability and feel for the baseball were some of the things that stood out about him, said Ryan, who pitched a major-league record seven no-hitters.
‘Very Special Talents’
“He’s as comfortable throwing his breaking ball as his fastball,” Ryan said. “He has several really quality pitches. When I think you look at him, you realize that he’s pretty special. He does possess very special talents.”
Darvish, whose father is Iranian, visited the Dallas-Fort Worth area for the first time this month. He toured Rangers Ballpark while meeting with Ryan and players including Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler.
“He comes from an international background, which gives him an advantage to probably blend in faster than other Japanese players,” Daniels said. “And he’s been here a couple of times, so I think it’s natural that he’ll blend in.”
Darvish didn’t play enough seasons in Japan to become a free agent and sign with the U.S. team of his choice. Instead, he went through a blind-bidding process that has yielded mixed results for pitchers.
The Red Sox and New York Yankees both signed Japanese pitchers through the posting system in 2007. After paying a record amount for the rights to Matsuzaka, Boston gave him a $52 million contract over six years. The Yankees spent $26 million to be able to negotiate with Kei Igawa, signing him to a $20 million, five-year deal.
Matsuzaka went 15-12 with a 4.40 ERA in his first season in Boston as the Red Sox won a World Series title. He followed that with an 18-3 campaign and a 2.90 ERA. He’s struggled since and is recovering from June elbow surgery.
Igawa lasted two seasons with the Yankees, going 5-9 with a 6.66 ERA.
Daniels watched Darvish pitch while making a trip to Japan last season, and the Rangers had scouted him for several years. That interest, plus failed attempts to win the World Series in 2010 and 2011, persuaded Darvish that Texas was the right club for him, his agent, Arn Tellem, said at the news conference.
“It’s a great team that’s been on the doorstep and hopefully with Yu coming here they’ll finally reach the goal of winning a World Series,” Tellem said. “Yu is excited about helping a team that has not won achieve that goal. That’s a great challenge to him.”
Texas won the American League championship the past two seasons before losing in the World Series to the San Francisco Giants in 2010 and the St. Louis Cardinals last year.