One of the key baseball free agents this winter is Japanese starting pitcher Yu Darvish. The 25-year-old right-hander has spent the last few seasons pitching for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and is supposed to be posted for bidding at some point this offseason. When he is, a bunch of teams are expected to be in the mix for him.
The 6’5 Darvish has been on the radar of most big league teams since his showing during the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He has a combination of plus stuff, great size and the results to match. While most Japanese pitchers that come to America are compact with tight deliveries, Darvish looks more like the kind of American player scouts drool over. He’s tall, long and loose.
In 232 innings this season Darvish struck out 276 batters while walking just 36 (six of those were intentional passes), and compiled a record of 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA. Clearly if he wants to be challenged any more he needs to head to Major League Baseball.
While the Japanese sensation has not yet been posted for bidding, most experts expect that he will be shortly. When he is, the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Texas Rangers are all reportedly set to make bids. The Washington Nationals also apparently scouted Darvish hard this season but their level of interest is not currently known.
The problem is that since there is uncertainty regarding Darvish’s situation, teams might turn to other options just in case he doesn’t become available. Still, the guy has great skill, and is said to be far better than Daisuke Matsuzaka was when he came over, and we all know the kind of crazy hype Matsuzaka’s arrival caused.
Darvish sits between 91-95 on his fastball but can touch 97, while he has a hard shuuto (basically a hard screwball thrown by right-handers) that moves like a two-seamer and sits in the low 90s or upper 80s. He also throws a variety of other pitches: a hard slider/cutter, a soft slider, a straight change, a slow curveball and a splitter. So like virtually every Japanese hurler he basically has the kitchen sink repertoire.
Darvish is sure to generate a ton of interest if/when he is finally posted and the Rangers are said to be a slight favorite at this point. The Yankees have spent a ton of cash on their current starting staff and the Red Sox are probably hesitant to shell out big bucks to a Japanese arm after the Matsuzaka debacle. The Blue Jays will definitely be a contender for his services but right now the smart money is on the Rangers.