With the $51.7 million posting fee in place, the club has 30 days to agree to terms with the 25-year-old right-hander. If a deal can’t be reached, Darvish will remain with the Nippon Ham Fighters overseas.
The move is a risky one. But it’s a culmination of gambles this offseason by Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, who was named Baseball America’s Executive of the Year in 2010.
The first domino fell on Dec. 8, when the Rangers allowed ace C.J. Wilson to walk away to the Angels in free agency. In hindsight, the impetus behind the reserved approach could’ve been to sign Darvish.
“The Texas Rangers are pleased and excited to have acquired the rights to negotiate with Yu Darvish,” the team said in a statement. “Our organization has scouted Mr. Darvish for the last several years and has been very impressed with his abilities and accomplishments.”
Nabbing the phenom from the Far East is a gamble within itself. After Hideki Irabu, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kei Igawa failed to seamlessly transition to the majors, the Rangers are running the risk of signing another Japanese flameout.
Darvish’s background, of course, says otherwise. He possesses a dizzying array of breaking balls and a fastball in the upper-90s. The right-hander is also familiar with American culture, since his parents met in Florida.
Still, beyond importing an overseas commodity, the Rangers aren’t placing Darvish in ideal pitching circumstances. The 25-year-old will have to fend for himself at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, a slugger’s delight.
In 2011 alone, hitters slammed a league-high 227 homers at the venue. For a rookie –– let alone a rookie pitcher from Japan –– the challenge of maintaining a low ERA in that ballpark would be intimidating.
But after two straight losses in the World Series, Daniels can afford to take a chance. He already demonstrated his acumen by constructing a contending club without ace Cliff Lee, who left during last year’s free agent period. That success gives him the leeway to gamble on free-agent closer Joe Nathan and shift former closer Neftali Feliz to the rotation.
And with Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando in the rotation, a surplus of pitching only increases their shot at replicating their runs to the title game. Add in Feliz and the Rangers will not be lacking in the arms department.
“For our organization, our fans, our community, this is the first step in the process, but it’s an important one,” Daniels told Dallas reporters in a conference call. “We hope that it will end by signing Darvish to a contract.”
And in the end, the bold moves may be worth the risk.
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