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No Thank Yu

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Japanese pitchers are fascinating, aren't they? Even in the internet age, few of us have seen any of any of them play, and statistics from the Japanese leagues are surprisingly hard to find online.  So we rely on word of mouth and legend, probably not unlike the way baseball fans discussed players from other cities 100 years ago.  Yu Darvish is the latest fascination, and if the sky being blue is any indicator, he'll be pitching in America in 2012 for some team that has very deep pockets.  I just hope it isn't the Yankees.

The problem isn't Darvish himself.  Clearly, he is a talented pitcher, and while there's no certainty any time a player makes the jump from some lesser league, be it AAA or the Pacific League, to the majors, Darvish is the best pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball.  If the odds favored anybody successfully making that jump, it's him.

No, the problem isn't Darvish, it's the system.

Earlier this week at Fangraphs, Dave Cameron postulated that the winning bid for Darvish would probably fall into the $40-$50 million range, and his ensuing MLB contract would probably be in the 5 year/$60-$75 million range.  What this means is the team that winds up acquiring Darvish may find themselves laying out nearly as much as the Phillies did to acquire Cliff Lee last offseason, and slightly less than the Yankees just spent extending CC Sabathia.

I can't envision a world where that makes sense.

Darvish may well turn into an outstanding major league pitcher, but at this point, his only experience against big league caliber competition is a handful of Olympic and World Baseball Classic games.  There's simply no way of knowing how he'll adjust to major league hitters, the 5-man rotation, or all of the other nuances and idiosyncrasies  of American baseball. 

But by spending money on Darvish that's typically reserved for Cy Young-caliber pitchers - even if some of it is exempt from the luxury tax - the bar will be set so unreasonably high that anything less than a few Cy Young caliber seasons will make this experiment a failure.  Look at Daisuke Matsuzaka.

I'm intrigued by Darvish, but I hope to watch him from a distance, on some other team.  If he signs with the Yankees, I'm afraid he'll face the kind of impossible expectations that only Alex Rodriguez can relate to.