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The Tireless Pursuit of Yu Darvish

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In a free agent market that offers pitchers that have proven they can compete in the American League or National League, many teams are turning an eye toward Japan. The level of intrigue surrounding 25-year-old Yu Darvish is much like that which circled Daisuke Matsuzaka after the 2006 season.

A current Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighter, Darvish is reportedly asking his club to post him to Major League Baseball this offseason in hopes of landing with a big league club in the United States. 

If Darvish indeed posted, I'm most interested to see what the winning bid to speak with him will be. It seems logical to think that a limited number of teams out there are going to be keen on the thought of dropping upwards of $40 million just for the right to negotiate with him. However, it's been done before. 

Recall that the Boston Red Sox paid an unreasonable $51.1 million posting fee to speak with Matsuzaka before agreeing to a six year deal worth $52 million. Boston essentially spends slightly more than $17 million per season (factoring in the posting fee, of course) for Matsuzaka. It's also worth noting that the Red Sox outbid their closest competitor by $20 million. Unless someone is absolutely chomping at the bit for starting pitching out there, I seriously doubt anyone will pay that high again. 

The Yankees, although not to the same extent as Boston, also paid a $26 million posting fee to chat with Kei Igawa and agreed to a five year, $20 million deal heading into 2007.

With Matsuzaka folding thanks to numerous injuries and Kei Igawa never quite panning out, teams will no doubt be cautious in their international spending. With cheaper, yet older, options currently on the free agent market, why not just play it safe?

Because Yu Darvish is exceptionally talented. 

Highly regarded as the best pitcher in all of Japan, Darvish has absolutely dazzled the Pacific League since his emergence in 2005 at the age of 18. In his seven seasons in Japan, Darvish has tossed 1268.1 innings, allowing only 916 hits while walking 333 batters. Yes, that's a WHIP of 0.98 in seven seasons. With 1259 strikeouts, his 8.93 SO/9 rate over the course of seven years is truly astounding. 

His intense repertoire of pitches certainly helps keep hitters honest. Not notably a fastball pitcher, his four-seamer hovers in the mid-90s and his hard slurve pitch dials up in the low-80s with a nasty bite. In addition to those two pitches, he's been known to hurl a two-seamer, changeup, curveball, and sinker. His bulky 6'5", 220 pound frame has helped his velocity steadily rise year after year as well. 

Glancing at this through a "glass half full", Darvish has portrayed an array of spectacular pitching and proven that he can handle a heavy workload of innings. It would be moderately surprising to see his innings count top 200 in his first year at the big league level considering the overemphasis on relief pitching in America. He has minimal injury history (stress fracture of right hand forefinger in 2009) and is as consistent a pitcher we've seen. 

Despite all signs pointing to a potential ace in the major leagues, skepticism should be widely accepted. It'd be unethical not to question the obscene amount of money that may be thrown his way. And for what? Sure, he's more than proven himself in Japan. But baseball in America is different: the hitters are better, the pitching schedule is a bit more grueling, the culture is tough to break into, etc. 

That's what makes this so fascinating. Ownership takes a gamble with every contract that it collectively offers to players, whether they're "homegrown" or foreign. The economic return on Darvish could pay unfathomable dividends and lead the Yankees to discovering a new, young fixture in their rotation. He just seems too good to pass on.

My humble and honest opinion is that the winning bid to speak with him will be between $30-$40 million and his contract should be in the ballpark of five/six years, $50-$60 million. 

What's our consensus, Pinstripe Alley? 

Follow me on twitter @csm5206

Note: The arguments presented in this "vs. series" do not necessarily reflect the writers true beliefs, but they could.