As much as some fans and reporters want to point to Rogers’ part in the MLSE deal and scream that that’s why the Jays supposedly have no money this winter, I think it demonstrates quite the opposite. If an astronomical expenditure makes long-term business sense, quite evidently Rogers has no problems fronting the cash for it. Free agent deals that immediately create unmovable assets, are destined to go sour on the back end, and only offer a marginally better chance to grow the Jays’ business long-term than simply being patient, building through the farm system and by trading off those cost-controlled chips? A little harder to justify to an objective, passionless businessman.
A potential deal that doesn’t fit that mold, however, would be the acquisition of Yu Darvish.
With so much of the money earmarked for Darvish siphoned off by his Japanese club, the team who wins the bidding will get him on a much more favourable contract than if all the money the club was willing to spend on him went directly to the player. He’s much less an unmovable asset because of it.
The same is true of the fact that the winning bidder gets exclusive negotiating rights. Alex Anthopoulos has spoken this off-season about how a top tier free agent becomes immediately unmovable, since the club signing him paid more than anybody else was willing to. This wouldn’t quite be the case for Darvish. The Jays won’t have to overpay him relative to other suitors to compensate for Canadian tax rates, and they won’t have to worry about extending their bid to keep the player from choosing a higher profile or more successful club.
A deal with Darvish may also create business opportunities for Rogers in the Asian market, or at the very least create a boost for in-stadium advertising. There’s no real consensus, that I’m aware of, on just how much those potential additional revenue streams might be worth, but if Rogers knows anything it’s how to extract a buck, and I’m sure smarter business minds than mine could figure out a way to harness Darvish’s marketing power in Japan for the good of the club.
Also, while pitchers are certainly more liable to get injured, Darvish is young enough– 2012 will be his age 25 season– that the back-end risk on a deal to him is far less than on the contract Albert Pujols just signed, and I think it’s a solid bet to be less risky than going seven or eight years to Prince Fielder as well.
It doesn’t hurt either that pitching is the Jays’ true area of need. The club scored the sixth most runs in the Majors in 2011, and look to be on the road to even better offensive output in 2012, with Kelly Johnson back in the fold, Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus here for full seasons, an improving, healthier JP Arencibia, a more selective Edwin Encarnacion, and an Adam Lind who isn’t going to destroy his body fielding thousands of throws during Spring Training.
Yes, the Jays have a wealth of pitching coming through the system, but those arms would make awful nice looking trade chips if they wound up being blocked by established arms in the rotation.
So, the Jays’ lack of movement at the Winter Meetings, their surprising talk about payroll parameters during baseball’s spotlight week, Paul Beeston’s sudden public distaste for the posting system, perhaps this is a mere smokescreen.
Alex Anthopoulos was certainly not the first member of the Jays’ staff to watch Darvish pitch, and I can’t believe he would have gone to see him in person if his scouts’ reports were anything resembling lukewarm. Due diligence may be a major part of his M.O., but I suspect it’s something bigger than that when it requires a trip across the globe. For example, I don’t recall hearing that Anthopoulos himself has gone to see Yoennis Cespedes this winter, even though the same level of due diligence would be warranted on the Cuban free agent.
What I’m driving at is, there are a lot of reasons to believe the Jays are strongly interested in Darvish. Many fans seem to have convinced themselves that Prince Fielder is the perfect fit for this club and that it’s criminal that the Jays don’t appear to be interested in making a strong push for him, but no. It’s Darvish. And I think they will.