Through email and in the comments, I keep getting questions about Yu Darvish. And I get it. He’s still in his mid-20s, he’s pitched well in Japan, and it’s always fun to speculate about young talent. He’s an elite prospect, and all it takes to have him is a check with a bunch of zeros. The Yankees probably have one of those folded up in a drawer somewhere.
Thing is, I don’t have strong opinions about Darvish. To me he’s another guy with a load of potential and obvious concerns about cost, experience and turning potential into big-league production. Darvish is a risk, and whether that risk is worth taking is a question for people who have seen him pitch a lot more than I have. How badly the Yankees want him is a question that can only be answered by people who have plenty of incentive to either downplay or overstate in the name of driving up or driving down the price.
Here are a few weekend thoughts on Darvish.
• Whether you mention his name or read his name, the general idea is the same: The Yankees have seen Darvish, and they like Darvish — everyone in baseball has seen Darvish and likes Darvish — the question is whether any of the Yankees decisions makers are ready to guarantee he’ll have success in the states. If he’s posted, he’s going to be expensive, and that means risk. As with every risk, no one can say for certain that it’s worth the cost.
• Kei Igawa’s name is not insignificant here. Even if the Yankees try to look past Igawa and decide the Darvish is a different sort of pitcher, a flop from Darvish would look worse because of the previous misstep with Igawa. And it’s not like Daisuke Matsuzaka emerged as an ace in Boston. There are plenty of cautionary tales here.
• Someone emailed me about the cost of signing Darvish vs. the cost of a developing organizational pitcher. With the posting fee and the guaranteed contract, Darvish is going to be considerably more expensive than an organizational arm. The Yankees have plenty of pitching talent, but if Darvish is an ace, he’s still worth those extra dollars. Again, it’s all risk/reward here.
• Expectation is that Darvish is ready to play in the States, but Darvish himself claims the one-foot-out-the-door stories are exaggerated. Darvish wrote on his personal blog that he has yet to decide whether he wants to play in America next year.
• Unless CC Sabathia reaches the open market, the top free agent starter seems to be C.J. Wilson, and he’s only been a starter for two years. He’s about to turn 31 years old, and he’s certainly not considered a can’t-miss ace, or even a can’t-miss No. 2. Does the lack of a true No. 1 on the market affect Darvish’s value? Of course it does. It does not, however, take away the risk of signing him. John Lackey looked like the best starting pitcher on the market two years ago. How’s that deal working out for the Red Sox? Just because a player is the best available doesn’t mean he’s worth a massive contract.
• Fair point by the guys over at River Ave. Blues: The Yankees have money, and that’s all it costs to get Darvish. If money is the Yankees best offseason advantage, then they should leverage that advantage in a situation like this. If any team can afford such a risk, it’s probably the Yankees.
• No matter what, Darvish can’t be seen as a replacement for Sabathia. No pitcher is a sure thing, but Sabathia has a big league track record, and it’s that track record that makes him so valuable. Even if the Yankees go after Darvish and break the bank to get him, he certainly wouldn’t provide the same level of top-of-the-rotation comfort that comes from Sabathia. Darvish might have ace-like stuff, but he has to be thought of as a secondary piece right now.
Associated Press photo