Rangers win rights to Yu Darvish with record $51.7 million bid

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UPDATE: It’s official. The Rangers have confirmed that they won rights to Darvish.

11:10 PM: It’s all over.

According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, the Rangers have secured exclusive negotiating rights for right-hander Yu Darvish with a record $51.7 million bid.

No official confirmation yet, but if true, it will top the $51,111,111 sum that the Red Sox paid for exclusive negotiating rights to right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka back in November of 2006. They ended up agreeing to a six-year, $52 million contract.

The Rangers now have 30 days to work out a contract with Darvish. The 25-year-old right-hander is believed to be seeking a five-year deal in the range of $75 million, which could push the total investment north of $120 million. He is represented stateside by agent Arn Tellem.

Darvish went 18-7 with a career-low 1.44 ERA and a 276/36 K/BB ratio in 232 innings this season with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Standing at 6-foot-5 and 185 pounds, he has a 1.99 career ERA over seven seasons in Japan.

The Rangers were considered one of the front-runners for Darvish all along, as general manager Jon Daniels scouted him in person this past season. If the two sides can work out a deal, Darvish will join a rotation which is set to include some combination of Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando.

No word on how close the Blue Jays were to the Rangers’ bid, but it will be interesting to see where they go from here. They are loaded with prospects, so they could pursue either Matt Garza or Gio Gonzalez via trade. And who knows, perhaps they could make a run at free agent first baseman Prince Fielder.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.