So far in his tenure as Toronto Blue Jays GM, Alex Anthopoulos has focused on building a side to compete in the AL East. Toronto has already started to see the benefits of this with the performances of Brett Lawrie, Yunel Escobar and Henderson Alvarez.
With a number of talented young players in the minors, Toronto will soon be ready to make a push for the playoffs. What may put them over the top would be a big signing, and Japanese pitching sensation Yu Darvish could be that man.
It is likely that Darvish will be available over the winter. The Blue Jays are one of a number of teams who have scouted the Japanese superstar and Anthopoulos, a man who is not afraid of taking a gamble, should make a big effort to sign him.
Darvish has all the makings of a truly outstanding Major League pitcher. He has a number of plus pitches including a slider, curveball and sinker, and various projections see him as a potential ace.
His numbers in the Japan Pacific League are excellent. In the last four years, Darvish has an average ERA of 1.81, a WHIP of 0.91 and 807 strikeouts. He has also proven to be durable, throwing over 200 innings in three out of the last four seasons along with 40 complete games.
Toronto’s starters have struggled this season. Ricky Romero has had a good season, but behind him, the rest of the rotation has been poor. Brandon Morrow continues to be inconsistent, Brett Cecil has been average while Kyle Drabek has been a massive disappointment.
The rest of the rotation has been made up of stop-gap pitchers such as Luis Perez and Carlos Villanueva who would be better served coming out of the bullpen.
While the Blue Jays have a number of talented young pitchers in the minors, Darvish would almost certainly be an ace in the rotation giving the Blue Jays far more depth in an area in which they have struggled.
Signing Darvish would also prove to be a good move off the field as well. Top Japanese players such as Ichiro and Daisuke Matsuzaka bring in a lot of money from merchandising alone, and with the potential of Japanese tourists and a significant expat community, attendances at the Rogers Centre would increase.
That is not to say there aren’t a lot of risks in signing Darvish.
Firstly, it would take a huge financial commitment to sign him. Before entering contract negotiations, there is the matter of the posting fee. When Matsuzaka signed for the Red Sox, the posting fee was $51 Million and it may be more with Darvish.
The risk is all the greater when you consider that Darvish is unproven at Major League level, you only need to look at Matsuzaka to see it may not pay off.
However, Darvish’s numbers in Japan compare favourably to those of Matsuzaka. In his time in Japan, Matsuzaka never posted an ERA under 2.00, and rarely hit the strikeout numbers Darvish has produced.
Darvish could be a potential superstar in the Major Leagues. Blue Jays owners have said that the payroll can be increased when Anthopoulos needs it.
Anthopoulos has made a number of bold decisions in his time with Toronto, this one may be the biggest so far. Darvish may be a big risk, but his potential upside makes him good enough to gamble on.