Unless you are completely new to the baseball blog community (in which case, welcome!), you have heard about the Blue Jay links to Japanese superstar pitcher Yu Darvish.
Darvish is surrounded by Pearl Harbor sized hype. He’s young (25), talented (1.44 ERA & 10.7 K/9 in ’11) and charismatic. He will also be extremely expensive.
Signing Japanese players is very different than any other types of deals. Darvish is under contract with a professional team, the Hakkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. In order for Darvish to become available to MLB teams, the Fighters need to “post” him, allowing teams to compete in a silent auction for the right to negotiate with the pitcher. If the team with the highest bid fails to sign the player, the posting money is returned.
This is an inherently difficult and dangerous process. You can’t just bid a dollar higher than the next best bid. Its a guessing game that can result in teams dramatically overpaying. In the Daisuke Matsuzaka sweepstakes of ’06, the Red Sox are said to have outbid the next highest offer by $11 million!
Since the posting system was introduced in 1998, only 8 players have signed Major League contracts. Outside of Ichiro, the results- from a value standpoint- have been terrible:
Posting fee: $13.125 mil
MLB contract: $14 mil/3 years
Posting fee: $11.26 mil
MLB contract: $12.3 mil/4 years
Posting fee: $300,000
MLB contract: $1.5 mil/ 2 years
Posting Fee: $750,000
MLB contract: $1.4 mil/ 2 years
Posting Fee: $51.1 mil
MLB contract: $52 mil/ 6 years
Posting Fee: $4.5 mil
MLB contract: $7.7 mil/3 years
Posting Fee: $26 mil
MLB contract: $20 mil/ 5 years
Posting fee: 5.329 mil
MLB contract: $9/ 3 years
The posting system makes it very difficult for MLB teams to get decent value because of the silent auction format and the need to compensate both the player and his former team.
Another posting system issue, is the increased difficult in evaluating Japanese talent. Apart from a few games at the World Baseball Classic, Darvish has virtually no experience against professional hitters outside of Japan . Will his stuff be as dominant against MLB calibre hitters? If you look back across the 42 Japanese players who have made the jump across the Pacific, you will notice that the list is full of guys whose skills really didn’t translate.
Darvish’ best comparable is clearly Daisuke Matsuzaka. So it’s a safe bet that it’s going to take 8 figures to acquire his services. This is the ball park according to mlbtraderumors.com. Personally, I believe that kind of coin could be put to better use in traditionally talent pools such as: Latin America, the first-year player draft and free agency.
What do you think?