After watching Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson jump (back) into the AL West with the Angels, the Texas Rangers have no choice but to redouble their efforts in pursuit of Japanese pitching phenom Yu Darvish.
And, at this point, it looks like he'll have no choice but to join them, unless he'd prefer to stay with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
According to the Sporting News, the market of teams pursuing the 25-year-old righty is slim, with the Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays as the front-runners. The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, normally the titans of free agency and overseas acquisitions, have shown little, if any, real interest in engaging in any sort of bidding war for Darvish's services. Said Red Sox GM Ben Cherington of Darvish:
“I’m not sure the timing this offseason puts us in a position to be the most aggressive team. But he’s a good pitcher and we have a lot of respect for him. We’ll certainly discuss it and figure out if a (bid) makes sense.”
This, despite the fact that the Red Sox, as well as the Yankees, could certainly use a potentially plus arm like Darvish's in their respective starting rotations. Boston has a terrific one-two punch in Jon Lester and Josh Beckett, and potentially a trio if Clay Buchholz heals up, but almost nothing of note beyond that. The situation is even more dire for the pinstripers, who can depend on CC Sabathia giving them a chance to win every fifth day but will find only uncertainty amongst the likes of Ivan Nova, AJ Burnett and Freddy Garcia.
Yet, despite their glaring needs and deep pockets, the two perennial powers of the AL East have seemingly recused themselves from the posting process.
Though certainly not without good reason. Both teams are all too familiar with the perils of spending tens of millions of dollars on foreign pitchers with only minimal experience against major league hitting, at most. The Red Sox spent $51.111 million on the bidding rights of Daisuke Matsuzaka back in 2006 and another $52 million over six years to bring him to Boston.
Since then, Dice-K has been nothing short of a bust for the BoSox, posting an earned run average of 4.25 and a WHIP of 1.40 while struggling with myriad injuries over the past three seasons.
The Rangers are likely aware of the precedent that Matsuzaka set and should be, given the fact that they'd be spending upwards of $100 million to bring Darvish to American shores.
But, all things considered, this is a risk Texas needs to take. The team must make some sort of splash before the hot stove cools off, if for no other reason than to keep up with the Angels in their own division. The Rangers have plenty of money to spend, or rather will once their new TV deal with FOX kicks in after the 2014 season. As such, the organization can afford to gamble a bit on Darvish.
If things work out, the Rangers will have themselves a potential ace in Darvish, who finished with a razor-thin ERA of 1.44 last season. Throw him in with Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz, and Texas may yet have the best rotation in baseball.
Or, at the very least, a stable of arms capable of neutralizing Pujols and the suddenly-titanic Angels offense.
And if Darvish proves to be a bust, Texas will still have four other arms and plenty of money to paper over the mistake.
At this point, Darvish is the Rangers' to lose. With the market already cornered and dominance in the AL West slipping away, it's up to Texas GM Jon Daniels, the whiz kid behind the team's consecutive World Series appearances, to play his cards right and bring some Far East flair to the Metroplex.