Just a few short days ago, the Texas Rangers signed their coveted free agent, right-handed pitcher Yu Darvish, formerly of the Nippon Ham Fighters.
With their bid-winning sum of $51.7 million—and the six-year, $60 million contract—the Rangers have now invested almost $112 million in a pitcher that has the ceiling of an ace, or the floor of a number three starter.
Of course, the only thing we really know about Darvish is that he has yet to throw a single major league pitch.
Regardless, the deal's done, and whether or not Darvish is the next Nomo or Dice-K is a mystery that will take a few years (or one WS championship) to unravel.
Or can the Rangers still reach back into their well-worn Wranglers and muster up the cash for Prince?
In other words, how does the Yu Darvish signing affect Prince's potential of landing a king's ransom?
Texas Rangers GM Jon Daniels has stated publicly that the Rangers most likely won't go after Prince Fielder.
Well, remember when the Toronto Blue Jays were erroneously hailed as the "frontrunner" to secure the highest bid for Yu Darvish's negotiation rights?
Yep, that was good 'ole "JD" showing off his ninja-savvy by keeping his cool—even though he knew that his Rangers most likely held the highest bid.
Well, he's at it again. If JD was to say how interested they were in Prince, this might drive the slugger's salary up even higher.
Plus, the Rangers have back-loaded Darvish's contract: He'll receive $5.5 million this season, and $9.5 million for 2013, followed by three years at $10 million per, and a sixth season at $11 million.
This move is likely arranged so that the Rangers won't have to absorb the full brunt of Darvish's contract until their new television deal kicks in.
The Texas Rangers' new local television contract starts in 2015 and is worth $3 billion...so if they can negotiate a back-loaded deal with Fielder, he could absolutely fit into their financial future with little or no problem.
Darvish's interesting contract might also have to do with off-setting a shorter, potentially front-loaded Fielder contract.
Yu's Signing Impact on Fielder with the Rangers
Regardless of popular belief, the Texas Rangers are very much still in on Fielder. However, the chances of a Fielder acquisition are greatly diminished if Fielder—and his agent Scott Boras—refuse to consider a shorter (not 10-year) deal that is back-loaded to off-set the financial impact prior to 2015.
It's not like he'll work for eight dollars an hour plus tips until 2015, though.
If he really wants to be in Texas, and it certainly appears that way, then it can happen. A back-loaded contract is his ticket to the Lone Star State—or at least the most glaring option to get him in a Rangers' uniform.
However, if it turns out that the Rangers don't end up with Fielder, the significant contract they tendered Darvish (as well as the many core players soon up for free agency) certainly was a point of contention.
A few days ago, the Washington Nationals agreed to a two-year extension with Michael Morse, for $10.5 million dollars.
Morse was used primarily as a first baseman last season, playing in 83 games there, but he also played 52 games in left field.
Sure, from the outside looking-in, it may seem as though this takes the Nationals out of the Prince Fielder sweepstakes.
Apparently though, the Nationals are still willing to go six, maybe seven years to sign Fielder. If the Texas Rangers bow-out due to the Darvish signing, or Fielder's inflexibility on the contract's potential construction forces his hand, then the Nationals seem to be the clear favorite to welcome Prince to their club.
Yu's Signing Impact on Fielder with the Nationals
The Texas Rangers signing Yu Darvish to a six-year, $60 million contract might have narrowed the race for Fielder's suitors to just one—the Nationals.
If that's the case then the Darvish signing did the Nationals a big favor—if they really are as serious about signing the slugger as they are reported to be.
Thanks to the Nippon Ham Fighters and the Japanese League's bizarre posting system, Yu Darvish certainly hasn't set any standards in terms of years per contract.
Thus, the Yu Darvish signing doesn't have much impact on these other teams that are rumored to still be in the hunt for Fielder's services.
Baltimore's new GM, Dan Duquette, offered my favorite quote of the new year on if his Orioles are still considered candidates to acquire Prince Fielder (from MLBTraderumors.com):
"Are we going to get him? I don't know. If we don't, we'll look for someone just like him."
Atta boy, Dan. Here's hoping you can find another proven, power-hitting, 300-pound first baseman somewhere else on the market.
I've got to think the Baltimore Orioles are OUT of the Fielder hunt.
I find it highly unlikely that any team overseen by Theo Epstein is going to financially handicap themselves for up to 10 years. Cubs are OUT.
According to this bog post, the Mariners might benefit the most in the Fielder sweepstakes since the Rangers inked Darvish.
I tend to agree. The Seattle Mariners could afford Fielder—if they played their cards right. The only problem here is that if Fielder wanted to be in Seattle (and they could afford him) wouldn't he already be there?
Yes, that's no typo. There have been rumors recently that the near-bankrupt Dodgers could possibly sign Fielder.
Who knows? Sure they could probably pull it off, but would that be a wise investment for a money-strapped franchise?
I just don't think that Fielder is headed to la-la land.
So, sure, the Yu Darvish contract might just be a factor in a team's contract negotiation with Prince Fielder. The team it will affect the most is the Texas Rangers.
And as an ode to Ron Washington, I'll "go with my gut"... I think Fielder is in Texas next season, and not just to visit, but to be a member of the Rangers.