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Darvish completes deal with Texas

by Matt Smith

Major League Baseball will welcome a new international talent to its roster this season after Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish signed a six-year contract with the Texas Rangers.

Much as foreign players joining the Premiership can take some time to get used to playing in England, so Darvish will go through a period of transition as he gets used to his new surroundings. 

Daisuke Matsuzaka faced a similar period of transition and never reached the heights that were expected of him. However, all of the reports suggest that Darvish has the talent and character to succeed Stateside.

He might be a star pitcher coming over from Japan, but that’s really where the similarities with Matsuzaka end. Darvish should be considered as a talent in his own right and when you look at him that way, it’s not difficult to see why the Rangers have acquired him.

Darvish has been linked with a move to MLB for several years due to his utter dominance on the mound in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League. A recent feature on the MLB Network examined his pitching statistics and compared him favourably with Stephen Strasburg and the Rays’ Matt Moore. 

The Rangers invested a significant amount of time in scouting Darvish and they’ve subsequently been prepared to invest a considerable amount of money in the pitcher. 

Texas have paid $51.7m to Japanese team Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters to sign Darvish and that works out at approximately £33.5m. His six-year contract is worth $60m, putting him on just a shade under £125k per week. At a total commitment of  $120m, the Rangers are putting a lot of faith in Darvish being able to replicate something like his Japanese form in MLB.

That could bode well for those who want to see him succeed as, based on recent evidence, Texas generally make good baseball decisions.

The arrival of another potential star from outside of North America is great news for those of us who want to see the sport’s global appeal recognised more readily. This isn’t just a sport played by Americans, despite what many a compatriot will tell you, and Darvish dazzling in the States will be a notable story to highlight the international reach of the game.

And for Japanese baseball fans, Darvish’s arrival couldn’t have been timed any better. With Matsuzaka’s spotlight fading even before his long-term absence through injury, the great slugger Hideki Matsui being in the twilight of his career and currently being without a club, and even the seemingly unimaginable waning of Ichiro Suzuki’s magical powers, a new face was needed to fly the flag of Japan in MLB.

Yu Darvish is just the man to take on that role and it will be fascinating to watch him test himself against MLB hitters in 2012 and beyond.

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