Were you expecting a pun?
Unless you're a pessimist, Yu Darvish becoming a Texas Ranger has been all but a formality. Questions centered around how much the Rangers would have to pay him to make it a done deal, and whether or not it would look very good on paper.
It took until nearly the deadline (sorry for your nerves, pessimists), but the results are in. The long and short of it is six years reportedly just under $60 million, with awards-based bonuses and an awards-based opt out clause for year six.
Which is awesome. Darvish is a 25 year old who dominated a quality professional league, and was considered by some experts the best pitching talent on the market. The Rangers will be putting "just" $10 million a year towards a talented young pitcher who is likely entering his prime as his career in Arlington begins.
To put expectations to dollars, FanGraphs.com has $10 million as being roughly the going rate for a mediocre player on the free agent market (approximately 2.2 Wins Above Replacement, if you will). So while our expectations of what Darvish can produce with his hilarious strikeout rates, awesome ground ball tendencies, and seven ridiculous pitches might be higher than average, average is what it would take for his contract to work out just fine.
. . . if the market doesn't inflate, which it will. Just over the past six years, the cost of a marginal win on the market has inflated from $3 million to $4.5 million. At that rate, if Darvish is merely solid over the length of the contract, it will have likely been a slight success for the Rangers.
In other words, Darvish can crash and burn and it won't be the worst thing in the world. He could crash and burn, we've seen it happen, but he also has the ceiling to be something special. If he's special, the contract is a steal. If he's anything between, it's just fine.
Of course, there is the little aspect of his $51.7 million posting fee. That could be included in the contract, making it $20 million a year. Now we're talking about him needing to be a Top of the Rotation starter and All-Star-caliber pitcher to make the contract look worthwhile; a replacement for C.J. Wilson, if you feel like going there. The good news is, he might just be, as Richard Durrett shared. At the very top of that article, you can Darvish's projected line in Dan Szymoborski's ZiPS projection system for the next five years (ZiPS also liked one Colby Preston Lewis out of Japan), and it projects him as a little better than the level of a $20 million player on the current market. Four wins above replacement is roughly what it takes to be at an All-Star level come the end of the season, and also about the level of a top of the rotation starter. That ZiPS projection has Darvish ranging from 4.3-4.7 wins a year over the next five. That's just over $20 million of annual value on the free agent market, without even considering inflation again.
If Bob Simpson and company opened up spending for the posting fee on top of payroll, however, than that $51.7 is not coming at the expense of other players. Regardless of whether or not we include that fee in our evaluation of the whole signing, the deal done between now and then is nothing short of remarkable for the Rangers, and should have fans excited about how their front office does business.
Darvish could fall short of earning his money, we all know that. Above, you also have good reason to believe he should probably be expected to earn it and then some. Texas went in to the market and, rather than going bananas after the top names to try and make a splash scaring other people in their division, looked for moves that improve them now without mortgaging their future. The same can be seen in the dealings with Prince Fielder: the Rangers may yet be players in his market, but they are unwilling to bend to the demands of Scott Boras to improve a need for 2012. Their sights are set beyond 2012. It is a strategy that has delivered back-to-back pennants while maintaining a strong farm system and future financial flexibility. It is a strategy that might not get the instant gratification some other franchises are looking for right now, but has a much brighter outlook for the future.
Not that you can't be excited about Mr. Darvish right now. Yu never know what heights he could hit right away.
I couldn't resist a whole article. I'm done now, promise.
P.S. This is pretty awesome.