A little more Yu Darvish fallout, as we gather ourselves at the rest stop between last week’s sealed bid Twitter-frenzy and the contract negotiations process that probably won’t ramp up until after the New Year . . . .
There have been multiple reports that Toronto’s bid for the right to negotiate with Darvish was at least $50 million, and other subsequent stories that the Blue Jays were “not anywhere close” to the prevailing $51.7 million bid submitted by the Rangers. Whatever the truth is, it probably benefits the Jays to let the perception that they bid low proliferate, as a submission of at least $50 million that didn’t exceed the $51.1 million Boston paid to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka five years ago would have been sort of foolish, and a bid over $51.1 million that fell short of the $51.7 million Texas bid would have set off a barrage of second-guessing that wouldn’t let up unless and until Darvish were to prove at some point to be a poor investment. (To be fair, you could say the same thing if the Texas bid was a tick short of Toronto’s.)
We may never know for sure what the Jays (or Yankees or Cubs) bid. And it doesn’t really matter. Especially in Texas.
Bob Nightengale (USA Today) points out that the Rangers should draw 3 million fans for the first time in 2012 (after a franchise-record 2,946,949 in 2011), which seems like a good bet as long as the club is in the mix all season. The potential impact of Darvish as a Ranger in terms of revenue opportunities is sort of mind-blowing, from ticket sales to sponsorships to merchandising.
With a January 18 deadline for Darvish to sign, chances are probably slim that something gets done before Fan Fest on January 13-15, but if they do agree to terms by then, can you imagine how many Darvish jerseys and T-Shirts would sell at the Arlington Convention Center that weekend?
As for what the contract might look like, one AL executive suggested to Jon Heyman (CBS Sports) that it could take “C.J. Wilson money,” something in the neighborhood of the $77.5 million over five years that the former Ranger is getting from the Angels. (For what it’s worth, Heyman reports that Texas, which made no formal offer to Wilson, was “only willing to pay [the lefthander] $60 million over four years.”)
For what it’s worth, Franz Lidz, the Sports Illustrated writer who broke the story shortly after the submission deadline that the prevailing bid exceeded the Matsuzaka number, believes that Darvish is seeking five years and $75 million. Heyman echoes that projection.
From Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports) regarding the likelihood of Texas being able to strike a deal with Darvish and his agent Arn Tellem, who also represents Chase Utley, Hideki Matsui, and NBA stars Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook: “Expect the usual back and forth, but Tellem is a deal-maker and Darvish can’t turn back now. The Rangers will pay the pitcher far more than he would earn if he returned to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. What’s more, Darvish ‘loves’ the Rangers and looks forward to joining a winning organization, according to one baseball source.”
One thing to expect, assuming the Darvish contract is for fewer than six years, is that he’ll have free agency rights at the end of the deal, rather than arbitration eligibility (and club control) that the standard big leaguer with fewer than six seasons of service time would face. That’s a provision that Tellem secured for Matsui when he originally signed with the Yankees, and I believe Koji Uehara, for example, is exempt from the arbitration process as well.
Jon Morosi (Fox Sports) notes that when the Rangers submitted a bid (reported to be $27 million) for the Matsuzaka negotiation rights in 2006, they had zero full-time employees devoted to scouting in the Pacific Rim. Today, Morosi points out, they have four.
According to Baseball Prospectus writer John Perrotto (and others), Texas “had a scout at every one of [Darvish’s 28] starts this season.”
Going by the Major League definition of a quality start, by my rough calculation Darvish had 69 of them in 77 starts the last three seasons.
If Texas elects not to skip starters early in the season and is able to stay in rotation through the first six weeks, and if the Angels do the same, the clubs’ Number 3, 4, and 5 starters should face off in Arlington on Friday through Sunday, May 11-13. (If the Angels take advantage of opportunities to bypass their Number 5, they could send their 1-2-3 starters out against Texas.)
If the Rangers decide to give the Opening Day start against the White Sox to Colby Lewis and the Game Two start to Derek Holland, certainly conceivable, and run Darvish out there for Game Three, then you can imagine Darvish and Wilson facing off here on May 11.
Buster Olney (ESPN) heard from a “rival high-ranking executive” that if Darvish had gone to Toronto, the “smart money [was] on [the] Rangers to be the team to land Gio Gonzalez” from Oakland. Danny Knobler (CBS Sports) suggests that the A’s were hoping for that result because they believed they could have gotten more from the Rangers for Gonzalez than they accepted from the Nationals.
The Darvish angle aside, I’m glad Texas didn’t give up more for Gonzalez than Washington did.
Some other COFFEY-type stuff . . . .
Olney, for one, doesn’t think the Angels’ loud off-season will result in a playoff berth in 2012. He has, for the moment, Texas as the AL West winner and the Yankees as the Wild Card.
Morosi suggests that Texas “might be willing to move lefthander Matt Harrison . . . in order to acquire a more established pitcher.”
Heyman suggests that Texas remains “a threat” to sign Scott Boras client Prince Fielder, perhaps as “insurance against the possibility of losing [Josh] Hamilton, who is eligible for free agency after next year. While the Rangers want to keep Hamilton, they want to do it with a shorter contract than he will likely want.”
According to Jim Bowden (ESPN/XM), “sources close to Fielder acknowledge Texas and Toronto [are] still in on” the first baseman. Interestingly, Nick Cafardo (Boston Globe) writes that the Rangers “are still believed to be the favorites to land” Fielder, with the Cubs and Mariners denying interest.
Drew Davison (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) tweeted a few days ago that the Rangers “should know by Christmas if [their] No. 1 choice for Josh Hamilton[’s] accountability partner can do it.” Davison added that “[i]t’s not a current player,” meaning someone other than David Murphy is evidently the organization’s preference.
Still no word on who that might be, though.
According to Morosi, “[b]aseball officials with expertise in Latin America believe the Yankees, Cubs, Phillies, Blue Jays, Rangers, Tigers, Marlins and White Sox will pursue [Cuban outfielder Yoenis] Cespedes next month.” Most other stories have placed Texas firmly on the sidelines of that chase.
Veteran reliever Manny Corpas, who rehabbed with Texas last summer after September 2010 Tommy John surgery, signed a big league contract with the Cubs, though Heyman reports that the Rangers did offer a big league deal as well and, according to Gerry Fraley (Dallas Morning News), Corpas gave Texas the right to match Chicago’s proposal. “His agent handled it professionally,” Assistant General Manager Thad Levine told Fraley. “We weren’t prepared to make the investment [the Cubs] made.”
According to Jerry Crasnick (ESPN), Roy Oswalt’s market is picking up “now that he has told clubs he only wants a one-year deal.”
Rosenthal tweets that Texas remains interested in A’s closer Andrew Bailey, who is also on Boston’s and Tampa Bay’s radar, among others.
Baltimore (of course) signed Endy Chavez to a big league deal for 2012 with a $1.5 million base.
Jason A. Churchill (ESPN), who is based in Seattle, suggests that the Yankees “don’t have enough to give the Mariners for Felix Hernandez,” an observation obviously different from saying Seattle won’t trade King Felix.
Texas had a productive draft in 2006 (Chris Davis [5th round], Jake Brigham , Craig Gentry , Derek Holland , and Danny Ray Herrera ), but not so much in the first round, where the selection of lefthander Kasey Kiker came immediately after the Giants and Diamondbacks chose Tim Lincecum and Max Scherzer, two righthanders reportedly near the top of the Rangers’ board.
To be fair, the remainder of the first round that year has been largely disappointing (only Ian Kennedy  and Daniel Bard  have done much of anything in the big leagues), but with Thursday’s release of Kiker, his Rangers chapter comes to a quiet end. The Alabama product was beset by a severe loss of command and velocity the last couple seasons.
The Rangers also released righthander Andrew Doyle, lefthanders Paul Strong and Juan Grullon, catcher Carson Vitale, infielder Jimmy Swift, and infielder-outfielder Mitch Hilligoss.
Infielder Greg Miclat, acquired from the Orioles to complete the Taylor Teagarden trade, cut his Panama Winter League season short due to a strained ribcage muscle, but he’s expected to be healthy by time camp opens in February.
Thanks for the tremendous surge in book purchases over the last week, during which time we also had more than 200 new folks sign up for this mailing list. The holidays may have been a big reason for one, but the Darvish development is surely to credit for the other, a microscopic indication of what is going to be an absolutely huge opportunity for the Rangers off the field as well as on it.
Can’t wait for baseball.