WHO IS YU DARVISH?
Not since Daisuke Matsuzaka became a household name in 2007, when the Boston Red Sox won the sweepstakes to bring him to North America, has a Japanese player garnered as much as attention as Darvish. The 25-year-old right-handed pitcher was born Aug. 16, 1986, in Osaka to a Japanese mother and an Iranian father. His father's last name is Darvishsefad. He is listed as 6 foot 5 and 215 pounds.
WHAT HE HAS ACCOMPLISHED
In 232 innings last season playing for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, Darvish had an earned run average of 1.44 with 276 strikeouts and 18 wins – all career bests. To put that in perspective, top Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Ricky Romero won 15 games this past season with an ERA of 2.92 and 178 strikeouts over 225 innings. American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander piled up 24 wins with a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts. Darvish pitched in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing as well as the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He is a two-time Pacific League most valuable player with a career record of 93-38 career record and 1.99 ERA over seven seasons in the Nippon Professional Baseball league.
BASEBALL'S POSTING SYSTEM
The complicated process was put in place in 1998 between the NPB and Major League Baseball as a way for Japanese teams to receive compensation for players who have yet to become free agents but wish to sign with a North American team. Once the team with the winning bid has been identified, a 30-day window is opened for that major-league team to try to negotiate a contract with the player. If a contract cannot be signed, the major-league team gets its posting money returned.
Over all, 11 players have signed with major-league teams through the posting system, with mixed results. Matsuzaka's transfer in 2007 to the Red Sox has been the most highly publicized and his performance has been mediocre at best. Since his arrival, the pitcher has compiled a 106-105 record with a 4.25 ERA, not the sort of return Boston had in mind for an expenditure of roughly $103-million (all currency U.S.), including a record winning post bid of $51.1-million. At the opposite end of the ledger is Ichiro Suzuki who landed with the Seattle Mariners in 2000 after they posted a winning bid of approximately $13-million. Suzuki has gone on to become a franchise icon, a 10-time all-star and MVP who's bound for the Hall of Fame.
NO TRIVIAL PURSUIT
According to various reports, the Blue Jays were an active participant in the Darvish sweepstakes. Although general manager Alex Anthopoulos has remained silent when it came to discussions about his team's interest in the Japanese star, reports surfaced that the Blue Jays travelled abroad to scout Darvish on three to four occasions over the past year. And while the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers are all reported to have posted bids, the New York Post notes that the winning bid has come from the Blue Jays, possibly close to $50-million. And with estimates that Darvish will be commanding a five-year deal worth $75-million, that would make Toronto's investment around $125-million, a pretty good pay package for a player who has yet to prove his worth at the major-league level.