Rangers need to get the deal done
With Wednesday's deadline to sign Yu Darvish quickly approaching, the Texas Rangers need to get this deal done.
Darvish is critical for the club's rotation in 2012 and for the foreseeable future.
First, the Rangers must trust their scouts and front-office personnel. And the club is convinced that Darvish has the ability to be a front-line starter for years to come. They were sure enough that GM Jon Daniels and CEO Nolan Ryan convinced ownership to pull out the checkbook and, as long as a deal is completed by the deadline, hand over $52.7 million to Darvish's team in Japan before even paying him a contract that could make the investment worth $120-130 million.
Yes, it's a risk. But this club has gone from an also-ran in the American League West to the two-time defending AL champions in large part because of its ability to scout and obtain talented players. It's time to trust those folks again.
Darvish is 25 years old. He's entering what should be the prime of his career. He has great fastball command, an assortment of pitches and the ability to make batters swing and miss. There will certainly be an adjustment period for Darvish in coming to the big leagues. But just as he hasn't faced major league hitters, they haven't seen him, either. Advantage: Pitcher.
As of now, the Rangers enter the 2012 season with one veteran -- 33-year-old Colby Lewis -- and four young starters:
• Derek Holland showed that he could be ready to take a huge next step after the second half of 2011 and a great start in Game 4 of the World Series. But he's still maturing.
• Matt Harrison has to show he can back up his 2011 season and stay healthy in 2012.
• Alexi Ogando was an All-Star in the first half of 2011, but ran out of gas. Can he build up enough stamina to start should Darvish not sign?
• And what about Neftali Feliz? He's going to get his chance in the rotation this season, but no one knows for sure how he'll handle the transition.
In other words: The club could still use a top-level arm. Darvish fits that mold. Despite the unknowns of bringing his game to the majors, he has a solid track record and the potential to become one of the club's top starters in the years to come.
Texas believed in Darvish enough that it watched C.J. Wilson sign with the rival Angels. The Rangers know they need another big arm and Darvish provides that. Get him signed and let's see what he can do.
Rangers should pass on the righty
It's obvious why the Texas Rangers believe they need to sign Yu Darvish: They clearly view him as the No. 1 starter they need to win a World Series.
I think there are clear reasons, however, the Rangers don't need to sign Darvish:
3. Playoffs guarantee
Let's review each of these.
Risk: By all accounts, Darvish is a true No. 1, a big guy with ace stuff and the stats in Japan to back it up. As Davey Johnson said at the winter meetings, "He throws like an American," meaning he's a power pitcher who doesn't rely on a funky delivery and changing speeds like many Japanese pitchers.
But he's not without risk, certainly not at the estimated $120-130 million it will cost ($52.7 million posting fee plus $70-80 million contract). In 2011, Darvish threw at least 120 pitches in 15 of his 28 starts. In 2010, he had nine games of 140-plus pitches. On the other hand, he was protected by generally pitching once per week. That means he'll have to prove he can handle pitching every fifth day. While the Rangers may think they're getting an ace who can deliver 200 innings with an ERA around 3.00, Dan Szymborski's ZiPS system projects Darvish with a 3.51 ERA in 2012, or a pitcher worth about 4.3 wins above replacement.
Need: It's not like the Rangers are gasping to fill a rotation hole. They have Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis, Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz (moving from closer) even without Darvish. The Rangers actually led the American League in road ERA last season at 3.19, well ahead of the Yankees' 3.65 ERA. True, they got to play a lot of games in Seattle, Oakland and Anaheim, but you can make the argument that the Rangers had the best staff in the AL after adjusting for home park. On the other hand, they were just seventh in road runs. Perhaps it's the offense that needs an upgrade, not the pitching.
Playoffs guarantee: Even if Darvish is a No. 1, does that improve the Rangers' chances of winning the World Series? Considering they were one strike away on two separate occasions from winning the Series last year, I don't think so. Plus, the playoffs are essentially just a crapshoot. Teams have won with great rotations (2010 Giants), and they've won without great rotations (2008 Phillies, 2011 Cardinals). As the Phillies showed in 2011, even having three aces is no guarantee.