Yu Darvish, the 24-year-old Japanese ace MLB teams have been salivating over for years already, has signed a 2011 contract with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters worth approximately $6 million, according to Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker.
There’s been speculation that Darvish could make the move to MLB following the 2011 season, but when asked about the possibility of being “posted” for MLB teams to bid on next offseason the two-time MVP offered merely a “no comment.”
His current contract makes him Japan’s highest-paid player, but Darvish would likely command at least twice that much per season and get a deal spanning at least five years if he came to MLB.
During the past four seasons in Japan the 6-foot-5 right-hander has posted ERAs of 1.82, 1.88, 1.73, and 1.78, which along with being just 24 years old figures to make Darvish the most sought after player in the history of the posting process should he decide to make the move.
Rather than give him a shot to earn a bench job, the Diamondbacks have sold 27-year-old utility man Rusty Ryal to Yomiuri Giants in Japan. He was released last week in preparation for the move.
Ryal debuted in 2006 by batting .271 with 11 extra-base hits and a .946 OPS in 68 plate appearances and got off to a similarly strong start this year by going 10-for-24 (.417) through mid-May, but then hit just .240 with a .610 OPS in his final 196 trips to the plate.
He has a solid track record in the minors, including a .290/.347/.527 mark at Triple-A, but Ryal will no doubt make more than the $400,000 big-league minimum salary in Japan and at age 27 probably didn’t feel like shuttling between the majors and minors again in the hopes of a bench gig.
Minnesota won the exclusive negotiating rights to Tsuyoshi Nishioka with a $5.3 million bid and eventually signed the Japanese infielder to a three-year, $9.25 million contract, and this afternoon general manager Bill Smith revealed that the Twins also finished runner-up in the bidding for Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma.
In an interview with Patrick Reusse and Phil Mackey on 1500-ESPN radio, Smith explained that the Twins bid $7.7 million for the negotiating rights to Iwakuma. Oakland blew that number out of the water with their winning $19.1 million bid, but then the A’s were unable to work out a contract with Iwakuma and he returned to Japan angry.
Based on Iwakuma’s reported asking price it seems likely that the Twins also would have balked at his demands, but had the posting fee been $7.7 million instead of $19.1 million it’s possible he would have asked for significantly less money and/or the Twins would have had more room in the total budget for the acquisition to offer him a palatable contract.
Whatever the case, it’ll be interesting to see what happens when Iwakuma is up for bid again next offseason.