Yu Darvish May Be a Toronto Blue Jay in 2012


Everyone around MLB knows that the Vernon Wells deal to the Angels was primarily a move made to free up some cash for the Toronto Blue Jays over the next few years, while also adding a little in the way of players for today. Well, in yesterday’s “State of the Franchise” gathering in Toronto, Alex Anthopoulos gave us a pretty decent hint as to where some of that saved cash, with the quote from the Canadian Press article available here stating:

"image courtesy of TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images“Anthopoulos added that the savings from the Wells deal — even after the Blue Jays apparently included US$5 million in the trade to the Angels — can potentially be used this year on international free agents and in the draft, further strengthening a farm system he described as the “lifeblood” of the franchise.”"

…and it got me thinking… Japanese uber sensation pitcher Yu Darvish!

And here’s why:

The Jays and Alex Anthopoulos just saved a massive amount of cash. We’re not talking $1, $2, $10, $20, or even $50 million here, we’re talking over $70 million when all is said and done. I don’t care how much talent is in the 2011, 2012, and 2013 drafts, the Jays are extremely unlikely to spend anywhere near that amount on all of those drafts put together. The Jays spent $11.6 million on the 2010 draft even while exceeding the recommended bonus amount made by MLB and were one of the biggest spenders in that draft (3rd, courtesy of Baseball America, only behind the Nationals and Pirates who handed their top picks in the draft massive deals). It was more than what the Jays spent on both the 2008 and 2009 bonuses added together, and a significant shift in club policy. And there’s more…

Add the $10 million given to SS Adeiny Hechavarria, the $2.8 million given to RHP Adonis Cardona, the $700,000 given to 3B Gabriel Cenas, and the most recent $350,000 give to LHP Jairo Labour, and you’ve got what is probably the most significant amount spent on prospects than ANY of the MLB franchises in 2010 and the start of 2011 – or $25.45 million total.

Let’s assume that the amount spent in the 2010 MLB amateur draft is an indication of things to come and that the Jays increase that amount by $1.5 million each year, just to use it as a ceiling and to include inflation. That would make expenditures in 2011, 2012, and 2013 the following amounts: $13,100,000 – $14,600,000 – $16,100,000 for a grand total of $43,800,000. If this is a path the Jays decide to take, it will take up all but a little more than $30 million saved in the Wells deal and would most likely keep the Jays at, or near, the top of the spending teams in MLB drafts over those 3 years.

The problem is that this isn’t a fact yet, first of all, and that the Jays already had that kind of cash allocated to the draft. We can’t divert the Jays savings from the Wells deal to the draft because an allotment has already been made yearly, by Alex Anthopoulos and the Jays, to be aggressive in the draft. So, in theory, the Wells money saved should only be included in calculating the moves they will make in the international market, where money is not already allocated for and is dependent solely on the talent available. The Jays proved that this is so when they chased both Aroldis Chapman and Adeiny Hechavarria simultaneously in 2010. If they had landed Chapman as well as Hechavarria, the Jays would have spent more than $37 million on the pair (based on the assumed bid of $27 million by the Jays on Chapman plus $10 million for Adeiny), a significant investment to say the least. It showed that the interest on improving through the international market was real, and that the Jays were going to lead the way, not be bystanders or middle of the road bidders.

Then we can add this little tid-bit of information, again from the Canadian Press and with a small quote from Blue Jays President Paul Beeston:

"In response to one question on player spending and the need for a salary cap, Beeston said he envisioned the Blue Jays one day spending US$140-$150 million on its payroll. “This city can support that,” he said."

Well, that changes things a little now, doesn’t it?

I’d like to take everyone back to the Daisuke Matsuzaka madness that was present in 2006 (all information included here was obtained through this link). His first move was to hire Scott Boras as his agent in October of that year, he was then given the right to be posted by his club in Japan, the Seibu Lions. His signing rights were eventually acquired by the Boston Red Sox who spent $51,111,111.11 just for the right to negotiate for his services. He eventually signed for a deal worth $52 million over 6 years, or $60 million if some incentives were met. The total cost of his acquisition was $101,111,111.11 million  to the Red Sox.

Fast-forward to today’s world and to Yu Darvish, quite possibly the very best international pitcher ever available on the international market. He’s much better than Daisuke Matsuzaka ever was at his age, will garner more attention and more money, and will still be a risky move as he will most likely make the move from Japan to North America in the near future.

The Jays know one thing is as close to a fact as possible: if they don’t sign Yu Darvish, chances are that the Red Sox or the Yankees will. Since the Red Sox were bitten by Matsuzaka as listed above and due to his recent lackluster performances, they are less likely to bid as aggressively for Davish’s services. Add in the desperation currently inhabiting the Yankees organization in terms of acquiring a starting pitcher with ace potential, and you’ve got a recipe for some serious bidding by the Yankees once it opens. Still, NY will have a ceiling in place due to the changeover in ownership control which is definitely more “bottom line” oriented than it was under George Steinbrenner’s watch.

Yu Darvish has stated that his plans are to leaning towards a move to MLB for the 2012 season. You can find out everything you need to know about Yu at this post dedicated to him at yudarvish.blogspot.com, which also provides all of the required links to keep tabs on his progress and get all necessary information about his potential. One of the links is to Yu Darvish’s very own website, so you can’t get any closer to the guy than that unless you meet him in person. Meanwhile, Matthias Koster of mopupduty.com gave us a very interesting look at his pitch count in 2010 here, as well as some great quotes about what it may or may not cost to get access to Yu Darvish once his signing rights are posted. My favorite quote included in his article was this one which he obtained from Jeff Passan of Yahoo:

"One American League executive guessed if Darvish posted after this season the fee to negotiate a deal would cost “around $75 million.” Another suggested “it could be even higher.” If the Red Sox paid $51 million for a 26-year-old Matsuzaka, a 22-year-old Darvish could command a 50 percent premium."

Of course, Darvish didn’t post that season (2010) and also re-signed in Japan for 2011, making him closer to Daisuke’s 26 year old signing age since he’ll be 25 years old on opening day of 2012. Still, he very well could get that 50% premium simply based on his performance to that point, his being 1 year younger, and due to simple inflation. The funny part is that I had already “thrown” that number out there in an April 2010 articleI wrote last year where I first looked at Darvish as an option for the Jays. The total cost I threw out there at the time was $150 million, pretty close to what may be expected around baseball as a total number for Darvish.

Let’s assume for 1 second that the price is in fact somewhere between $60-80 million in order to get his signing rights. The winning club would then have to sign him to a 6 year or so contract at a good rate. After all, Yu Darvish will want to get paid and there’s a reason he is likely to want to make the jump to MLB for the 2012 season: the possibility of an international draft! If he doesn’t post soon, he could very well wind up on the most “needy” team in MLB, both in terms of talent and cash. Therefore, if he wants to win, to wind up on a team he wants to play for, and to get paid, he needs to make the jump before the rules change – if they change at all, something none of us can predict but that could cost Darvish money or a shot to prove himself in MLB if he doesn’t get what he feels is enough money.

Matsuzaka was able to sign for $52 million over 6 years when the rate for pitching was lower than it is today, I wouldn’t put it past the Darvish camp to exceed that by a good amount. Assuming it is a 6-year contract, it could cost the acquiring team in the neighborhood of $60-80 million over that span, a similar amount than the amount spent on the signing rights if estimates are correct. Will any team pay $120-160 million for Yu Darvish? More importantly, should any team pay that much money?

I can’t answer any of those questions and could be way off on the amounts listed above. To put an “affordable” rate on Yu Darvish is extremely hard to do. You have to consider the hype that will surround him, the increased revenues coming from the Japanese fans – including T.V. deals (a major difference than when you sign a player from Cuba) – that the signing team will inherit, and if he succeeds as is expected, all of the income acquired from having a contending team. Perhaps the Matsuzaka results will scare off the big bidders, but then again Colby Lewis has proven to be just as effective in MLB as he had become in Japan, so which avenue is the correct one? Another way to look at it is that the Jays could possibly afford 3, 4, or even 5 guys like Aroldis Chapman instead of bidding on Yu Darvish. Does that make more sense? I would think so, except for one “tiny” issue – there’s no guarantee that anyone like Chapman will ever come along again, nevermind one coming up any time soon!

My point is simply this: the Jays can afford to be that highest bidder if they deicde to be that team (due in part to the Vernon Wells deal being off the books), they have the will to be the dominant team on the international market, they now have a very influential and knowledgeable group of scouts and evaluators in place to make sure their homework on Darvish is complete before he posts, and finally they now have  full support of such an increase in spending to as much as $150 million per season as stated by their President. Well, to me, that all adds up to one simple fact: if, and that’s a big if, the Jays like what they see in Yu Darvish and want to acquire his signing rights and sign him to a contract, they have the means and the will to do so. End of story.

Whether or not they’ll have that interest or be able to outbid others is another story altogether. Alex Anthopoulos had stated that he could have asked for more than $30 million for Chapman’s services after he signed with the Reds for close to that amount, but he added that he had one regret:

"“my one regret is I wish it was a greater comfort level on our part. We weren’t as familiar with the player as we needed to be.”"

Lesson learned. I can guarantee you that the Jays will be as familiar with Darvish as they need to be when his rights are posted. The Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Nationals, and others will likely be scouting Yu Darvish all season long in anticipation of his posting. Once he is posted, we all need to hang on to our hardhats, because if the Aroldis Chapman sweepstakes were an indication of what’s to come, we’re in for a very fun ride.

Let’s just consider for a moment what his inclusion into the Jays rotation in 2012 would mean to the Toronto Blue Jays. First, all other Japanese players coming over from Japan would see Toronto as a much more attractive destination. It doesn’t guarantee anything in terms of results or signings, but it does make it much easier for the Jays to attract players of high-quality and potential. Second, it would provide a major league depth chart in 2012 for the Jays that looks as follows:

That’s pretty potent and deep. But then we have to add all of those top arms added by Alex in the 2010 draft, as well as some of those knocking on the door in 2011:

All of the pitchers listed above a very highly regarded as potential starters. Adding an arm like Yu Darvish to this group, in my humblest of opinions, would quite simply put the Toronto Blue Jays at the very pinacle of pitching talent on board in all of MLB. The 2014 rotation resulting from this would have a potential to have four guys rated to have #1 or #2 ceilings by many in:

If that’s not a good enough reason to make a very strong push for Darvish, I don’t know what is. Do the Jays need to expose themselves to this much risk, both in terms of capital expenditures and in terms of translation of talent from Japan to North America? No, they don’t, and it’s quite possible that they’ll be priced out early in the chase for his services, or late just as was the case with Aroldis Chapman. Even without Darvish on board, the Jays will still have a very potent rotation. The money that would have been spent on Darvish could easily be diverted to sign as many top of the heap Latin players as possible, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, if Alex Anthopoulos remains true to his track record thus far, the Jays will remain as aggressive as possible until they are truly priced out of the chase for Yu Darvish. The fact that he is the very best international player available can’t be overlooked, and I’m positive he and the Jays don’t want him to land in New York or Boston.

There is also a chance that Darvish’s performance in 2011 could scare teams away or lower his cost, or that he could sustain an injury due to the pitch counts linked above within the mopupduty article. Nobody can predict these things. Or, on the other side of the coin, he could become even more dominant than ever and thus cost more than any of us predicted. Either way, he should become one of the more interesting stories of the 2011 season. The Blue Jays, with their commitment to acquiring top-tier talent and the funds freed up to do so, should be at the forefront of all chases for quality players such as Yu Darvish.

Yu Darvish may become a Toronto Blue Jay in 2012. As we, and all MLB teams know by now, you can’t count Alex Anthopoulos out of any situation, because as he has so eloquently stated in this year’s “State of the Franchise” address:

"“What we won’t do is short cut,” he told fans, “because once we get it there, it will be a freight train and it’s not going to stop.”"

Welcome to the Alex Anthopoulos era folks. It’s a wonderful time that is set to ride the rails all the way to a World Series win.

– MG

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