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.
When the Twins traded starting shortstop J.J. Hardy to the Orioles last week it signaled that they were extremely confident about being able to sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka before the December 26 deadline.
No deal is in place yet, but LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that the two sides are close enough to an agreement that Nishioka will soon travel to Minnesota for a pre-signing physical exam.
Some of the details still be worked out include “who interprets for Nishioka and how many round-trip tickets between the United States and Japan the club will be on the hook for.” As for money, he’s expected to receive about $10 million over three seasons after the Twins bid $5 million to secure his negotiating rights.
Throughout the 30-day window for the A’s to negotiate with Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma agent Don Nomura criticized the team via Twitter and now that the window has closed without a contract being signed his criticisms are even more plentiful.
Nomura told the Associated Press that the A’s “never showed any respect” and “their offer was low and they weren’t sincere.”
It’s easy to paint the A’s as the bad guys and it wouldn’t be surprising if they were less than ultra-motivated to work out a contract that wasn’t favorable to them, but the “posting system” for Japanese players is more to blame and Nomura’s reported asking price for Iwakuma was also significantly above the precedents established by previous Japanese players coming to MLB.
Oakland bid $19.1 million for the exclusive negotiating rights to Iwakuma and the money was refunded when the two sides were unable to work out a deal. From the A’s point of view they took a headline-grabbing flier on a player they liked, couldn’t come to an agreement, and moved on with their lives. From Iwakuma’s point of view his plans were ruined and he now heads back to Japan for another season, but the system working that way isn’t the A’s fault.
Beyond that, previous Japanese players signing with MLB teams have agreed to contracts roughly equal to the posting fee. Oakland offered Iwakuma a four-year, $15.25 million contract that was slightly below the $19.1 million bid, but Nomura was reportedly asking for a three-year deal worth at least $35 million. In terms of following precedent, the A’s offer was much closer to the norm than Nomura’s demands.