The MLB Rangers and Japanese P Yu Darvish "agreed to a six-year, $60 million deal Wednesday afternoon only minutes before a 4 p.m. deadline at the end of a 30-day negotiating window," according to Jeff Wilson of the FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM. Darvish will be "introduced at a news conference Friday evening at Rangers Ballpark." Rangers GM Jon Daniels said that Darvish can "opt out of the deal after five years and become a free agent if he meets a list of demanding performance thresholds." Also included in the contract is "an interpreter and a trainer, but that was the extent of the personal touches he wanted included in the deal." Daniels also said that there were "never any contentious moments in the process, which started with the Rangers being announced as the highest bidder on Dec. 19." But Wilson notes the team "chewed up almost 30 days to get the deal done" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/19). WMG's Arn Tellem, Darvish's U.S.-based agent, said that negotiations "went down to the closing bell." In N.Y., David Waldstein reports the two sides "held a marathon session Tuesday from early in the morning until past midnight, and resumed talks Wednesday" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/19). ESPN DALLAS' Richard Durrett noted the Rangers won the right to negotiate with Darvish "by submitting a record $51.7 million posting bid." Including the posting fee, the Rangers "paid more than $111 million to sign Darvish, which is more than the $103 million" that the Red Sox gave up to negotiate with and sign Daisuke Matsuzaka in '06 (ESPNDALLAS.com, 1/18). In Dallas, Evan Grant notes while the Rangers "loved Darvish’s talent all along, they weren’t sure they’d be able to afford him." But team co-Chairs Ray Davis and Bob Simpson "stepped up shortly after" the Angels announced the signings of 1B Albert Pujols and P C.J. Wilson (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/19).
NEW SHOW IN TOWN: In Ft. Worth, Drew Davison notes the Rangers "expect 75-100 members of the Japanese media to cover the team at spring training, and then the number will dwindle to approximately 20 who travel during the season." Even though Darvish's popularity in Japan "is unquestioned, the Rangers aren’t viewing it as a way to subsidize their $51.7 million posting fee." Rangers President & CEO Nolan Ryan said that the "potential international business perks -- jersey and hat sales, for example -- weren’t factored into the pitch to ownership." Ryan said, "If his popularity continues over here as it [has] over there, it might be a unique opportunity. But to try and make some type of prediction? You’d just be pulling a number out of the air" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/19). FOXSPORTS.com's Jon Paul Morosi asked the "biggest remaining question in Texas: When will Darvish make his debut?" If the Rangers’ "salesmanship is as bold as their offseason plans, Darvish should throw his first major-league pitch on Monday, April 9." That is the "fourth game of the year -- presumably, a night when Rangers Ballpark might not otherwise sell out." The Rangers "can host the home opener, raise the American League pennant and distribute rings over the weekend, before giving the stage to Darvish on Monday." The opponent that night is the Mariners, who feature Ichiro Suzuki (FOXSPORTS.com, 1/18). ESPN Dallas' Durrett said the excitement level in the Dallas area around Darvish is “pretty high actually.” Durrett: “This team captivated the area thanks to the two straight trips to the World Series. The attendance has been up the last two years, season ticket sales are up. Big fan fest last weekend had fans excited. There was a buzz about Yu Darvish even there. It is a big deal" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/18).
PROTECTING THEIR INVESTMENT: ESPN DALLAS' Durrett wrote the Rangers "need to be right about this one." They will "have to be careful not to put too much pressure on Darvish." He is going to "have enough to deal with as he makes the transition to the big leagues." This is "not a low-risk signing for the Rangers." They have "made a major investment and they have to get a good return." They "made a choice this offseason and decided they wanted Darvish" rather than Wilson, and that "speaks volumes about their trust in Darvish's abilities" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 1/18). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote, "No way around this but this deal is a massive risk." From a "cash standpoint, Yu's arrival should generate revenue that this club never has before overseas, and establish an even greater footprint in the states." From a "baseball standpoint, this deal only works if the Rangers win the World Series and he is a contributing member to the cause." Yu has to be a "celebrity ace that this team currently lacks" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 1/18). In Austin, Kevin Lyttle notes 38 Japanese pitchers have played in MLB and "none have struck it really big." Lyttle: "What makes Darvish different? He's younger, throws harder (92-94 mph regularly), is much taller (6 feet 5 inches), creating difficult angles for hitters, and has a fiery demeanor" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 1/19). CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman said of Darvish compared to Matsuzaka, "This is a better pitcher coming over. ... Texas got a win because they’ve got a star, a No. 1 pitcher, in his prime” (“Hot Stove,” MLB Network, 1/18). MLB Network's Kevin Millar: "This is a huge signing for them" ("Intentional Talk," MLB Network, 1/18).
GOING FOR BROKE? In Seattle, Larry Stone notes Ryan "has a lot of hefty decisions to make -- namely, can the Rangers afford both Darvish and [free agent 1B Prince] Fielder, and if so, can they then afford Darvish, Fielder and Josh Hamilton?" Hamilton "is entering the final year of his contract." He has said that he will "cut off negotiations once spring training starts" (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/19). SI.com's Joe Lemire wrote, "Most telling of the premium Texas placed on Darvish? It prioritized him over free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder, whom they may no longer be able to afford" (SI.com, 1/18). ESPN DALLAS' Durrett cited sources as saying that it was "doubtful the club could sign both Darvish and Fielder, but not completely out of the question" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 1/18). Durrett said with the money the Rangers are giving to Darvish, getting a deal done with Fielder “would take some creative on Scott Boras’ part and the Rangers’ part to try and make a deal work.” Durrett: “At this point, the more likelihood is they’ll let Hamilton play out 2012 and see what happens at the end of the season” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 1/18).