Am I late? Darn tootin’. But I got a request, and I’m not about to let my readers down like that. In any other number of ways, sure, but not like that.
The request was to share my thoughts on Yu Darvish who, for those few who don’t already know, is a Japanese pitching sensation that’s poised to make the move to MLB next year. Because of the way player transfers from Japan work, every MLB has a theoretical shot at landing Darvish, as long as it’s willing to spend the money.
My thoughts on Darvish can be boiled down to one: Toronto should make every attempt to sign the man.
But why? Make the jump and I’ll give my reasons!
Darvish has great stuff
You can go read all the scouting reports on the guy you want, but this graph (taken from the wonderful NPB Tracker) should tell you all you really need to know:
Not only does Darvish throw hard, not only does he have a curveball that comes in roughly 30 m.p.h. slower than his fastball and not only does Darvish throw seven (!) pitches, but one of them is the fabled shuuto!
With Bruce Walton’s knack for turning people like Jesse Litsch into OKish starters, it’d be damn scary to see what he could do with someone of Darvish’s obvious talents.
Oh, the marketing opportunities
Despite many reports to the contrary, Toronto is one of the largest markets in MLB and the stadium really can be filled on a regular basis. But how to get the people out?
Spending big on a free agent on Darvish’s calibre would surely appease a lot of the Maple Leafs fans who are more than happy to call into the Fan and say they won’t support the team until they “spend, spend, spend.” But signing Darvish could bring in even more people than that…
According to Statistics Canada, of the roughly 5.5 million in the Greater Toronto Area in 2006, a full 1,132,215 of them were from Asia and the Middle East. Now surely some of that group are already Jays fans and some never will be. But there’s got to be a chunk that could be won over by bringing in a half-Japanese, half-Iranian pitcher who’s widely regarded as the best player outside of MLB.
Bandwagoners and new fans won over all at once? What’s not to like?
Signing Darvish won’t break the bank
Yes, it’ll be expensive. There will be a lot of millions of dollars going to the Nippon Ham Fighters as a posting fee (the New York Times has a great explanation of the posting fee system, if you’re interested) but that won’t affect the team’s ability to sign anybody else. Not if team president Paul Beeston is to be believed anyway.
And to prove it, I’m going to show how behind the 8 Ball I am in getting this post up.
Going way back, check out these snippets from an interview Beeston gave to the Toronto Star’s Richard Griffin:
RG: You’re not a guy who shoots from the hip in terms of saying something that’s not well thought out. At the fan get-together in February tou talked on the mic about the possibility that this organization could spend up to $120 million on payroll. Obviously that was well thought out and that you weren’t just off-the-cuff. But you weren’t talking about direct, major league team payroll? I mean you included draft bonuses, international free agency. Is that how you approached it at that time or is it…
PB: No, we’re talking salaries. We’re talking salaries. I was talking about the 40-man roster.
RG: Alex at his end of season get-together with media stated the obvious in certain areas, that you need a frontline pitcher, a guy at the back-end of the bullpen, a hitter, the usual stuff, but in terms of Rogers, is there any feeling that this Japanese kid (Yu Darvish) could open a new market for them. I don’t want you to go out and alert every other team that you’re going to be posting very high for this guy, but it’s an opportunity in an Asian-heavy GTA…
PB: I can answer it this way. I think those people at Rogers who never heard of him before, now know this player is in existence.
If I’m reading that correctly, the posting fee wouldn’t be factored into any payroll limitations AND the team’s serious enough about Darvish that the idea’s been run up the flagpole. Good signs, people, good signs!
The best reason
Signing Darvish would keep him out of Boston and New York.