Darvish wants to become “the best pitcher in the world”

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Reason I was out the past few days: trip to Texas. Reason for the trip to Texas: none of your beeswax, frankly, but know this: the entire time I was there I barely heard a single word about the Rangers. Maybe that’s because I was doing way too much of this. Hard to say.

All I know for sure is that the Rangers buzz is going to get pretty big down there pretty soon as everyone wakes up from football season and realizes just how great a race there’s going to be in the AL West this year. And a big part of that is going to be Yu Darvish.

There was a press conference in Tokyo this morning featuring Darvish. Oh, and 10,000 fans too, which tells you what kind of figure Darvish is over there. At the press conference, Darvish set his sights pretty high when explaining his move to the United States to pitch for the Texas Rangers:

“I want to become the kind of pitcher that will make people say ‘Darvish is the No. 1 pitcher in the world’ … I want to feel the thrill of pitching against the world’s best hitters. It was becoming harder to stay motivated in Japan.”

World’s best hitters, huh?  Did anyone tell him just how many games he’s going to have against the A’s, Mariners and Astros over the next several years?

Oh well, I won’t tell him if you won’t. Would hate to disappoint him.

BREAKING: Manny Machado to sign with the Padres: 10 years, $300 million

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Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that Manny Machado has a deal with the San Diego Padres. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the deal is for ten years and $300 million with an opt-out after year five.

At the moment there is some disagreement as to how “done” this deal is, with Padres chairman Ron Fowler saying “We do not have a deal. We are continuing discussions.” Ken Rosenthal, however, says that’s “semantics” and that the financial terms are in place, with the deal requiring over some final touches on language and Machado’s physical, which will likely be a formality.

The Padres were a late entrant into the Machado sweepstakes, but they reportedly met with Machado last week. The club has obviously not won for a long time, but they have a strong farm system. While that usually mitigates against a big free agent signing, Machado’s age — 26 — means that he’s still likely to be a productive player when that core of prospects is mature. And if it doesn’t develop, hey, he’s made some serious bank and can still opt-out at an age when he might get another decent paycheck.

For the Padres, Machado represents the biggest single investment in a player in club history. Last year they spent too, of course, giving Eric Hosmer an eight-year, $144 million contract, but this is definitely next-level. As for the baseball side of things, it’s likely that Machado will be the full-time third baseman with Luis Urias handling shortstop. While all of the talk about Machado over the past several months has been focused on money and, sometimes, his alleged lack of hustle, the Padres are getting a player with a career line of .282/.335/.487 (121 OPS+), 175 career homers and a 33.8 career WAR in seven big league seasons. While he played shortstop last year and as a minor leaguer, his past and future is at third, where he is a superior defender. As for the hustle: it has almost exclusively been an obsession of the media, based on an ill-advised postgame quote in October. He has received no bad reviews from former teammates, all of whom speak highly of his game and his work ethic.

When the offseason began it appeared that the Phillies or the Yankees or, perhaps, the White Sox had the inside track on Machado. Everyone took a wait-and-see approach, reasonably believing that by waiting out Machado, a better deal could be struck. The risk of that approach, of course, is that it allowed the Padres to talk themselves into getting bold and, ultimately, swooping in to strike this deal.