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Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Yu Darvish looks like a bigger bargain now

By Richard Durrett

The Texas Rangers' top pitcher, Yu Darvish, was already a nice bargain for the club even before this week. But now that we know the details of Masahiro Tanaka's deal with the New York Yankees, Darvish looks like something straight out of Groupon.

Yu Darvish
Yu Darvish's deal with the Rangers looks like a bargain compared to the one Masahiro Tanaka received from the Yankees.
It was just a little over two years ago that Darvish agreed to a six-year, $56 million deal (Darvish gets $4 million more if he stays healthy in the final years of the deal) with the Rangers after the club paid the $51,703,411 million posting bid to Darvish's Japanese team. But with the changing system, Tanaka got to negotiate with every team and secured a more lucrative deal. His Japanese team gets $20 million from the Yankees. Tanaka got $155 million over seven years, if he stays in New York long enough to complete the contract (he has an opt-out clause after four years).

But if you glance around the league and see what prices teams are paying for top-notch pitching, you realize just how big a bargain Darvish has become. Clayton Kershaw's deal will pay him more than $30 million per year. Justin Verlander will make $25.7 million per year, just a bit more than Felix Hernandez's $25 million a season. David Price, still arbitration-eligible, got $14 million for this upcoming season. Those are just a few of the best in the league. No, I don't think Darvish is Kershaw. But he's one of the elite pitchers in the AL. Would you rather have Darvish or CC Sabathia? Sabathia's remaining contract goes through 2016 at $23 million a year.

So no matter how you look at it, Darvish's $10.25 million average annual salary is a terrific value. Even if you add in the posting fee, you're talking about $18.5 million on average for Darvish. Still a steal. But the Rangers always considered the posting fee an extra expenditure paid by ownership and not something that is included in the yearly budget.

Is Tanaka as good as Darvish? The scouts I've talked to say no. They believe Tanaka is a solid pitcher whose stuff will translate to the big leagues. But he doesn't have Darvish's repertoire. Here's how one scout, who has seen plenty of Tanaka in Japan, described him to me:

He's a grinder with good stamina and focus. He competes and is all business on the mound. His fastball can touch 96 and he mixes a curve, slider, cutter and splitter with the splitter being the separator. Overall has good command and pitchability. But he has a flat plane and there's not much deception there. The splitter is a plus pitch, but the others aren't really plus pitches. His stuff and ceiling [are] below Darvish, but a solid pitcher that is ready for the big leagues.


In other words: Tanaka is good, but not Darvish.

But he's getting paid at a much higher rate. Consider that Tanaka will make an average of $22.1 million each year of his contract. Darvish has $41 million left on his contract for the next four years. Yep. Tanaka will be making more than double what Darvish, who finished runner-up in the AL Cy Young balloting this past season, is slated to make on average per year.

The Rangers still invested nearly $111 million (if you include the posting fee and the additional $4 million that Darvish will likely get before the contract is out) to get Darvish. But they got exclusive negotiating rights to do it and Darvish himself only gets $60 million of that. The Yankees invested $175 million to get Tanaka on a seven-year deal, so that's one more year than Darvish's contract. But that's if Tanaka doesn't opt out after four years. If he does, the Yankees will have ended up investing nearly the same as the Rangers (if you add in the $20 million posting fee) for just four years of Tanaka as opposed to six of Darvish.

But remember: Darvish could end up voiding the final year of his deal if he wins the Cy Young in the next three seasons or finishes in the top four in two of the next three seasons. (By the way, Darvish got a $200,000 bonus for finishing second in the Cy Young in 2013.)

Still, the Yankees had to pay a big premium to outbid every other team interested in Tanaka. And in doing so, it sure makes the Rangers' deal look like a steal. Remember when that $51.7 million posting bid seemed outlandish?