Deadline Looming

Heard this: The deadline for the Texas Rangers to sign Yu Darvish to a Major League contract expires at 5:00 PM ET this afternoon.

We’ve heard the typical amount of “will they or won’t they” and “let’s just go after Prince Fielder” posturing over the last 30 days, but like almost any window for negotiations of this magnitude, it will come down to what we in the cliché industry refer to as the wire.

Aside: The wire in this idiom refers to the metal thread that marks the finish line in a horse race. The more you know . . .

Speaking of stuff you should know, let’s recap the rules surrounding the 30 day negotiation window:

  • If the player signs a contract with the Major League Club, the team must pay the Japanese Club the amount of its successful bid within five business days of the signing and approval of MLB and the MLBPA.
  • If the player fails to sign a contract within 30 days, the Major Leage Club with the highest bid doesn’t have to pay the Japanese Club and the player will be prohibited from being posted again until the following November 1st.

So, by 5:00 PM today, the Rangers will have either invested approximately $110 million ($51.7 million in posting plus guaranteed contract) in a player who has never pitched a single inning of Major League Baseball, or they won’t have spent a single penny.

From Darvish’s perspective, things aren’t so cut and dry. In fact, signing a Major League contract might not be as pressing a matter for him as you might think.

As Eno Sarris and Patrick Newman suggested in ESPN: The Magazine last October:

He is the highest-paid player in Japanese baseball, at roughly $6.5 million [in 2011], and he should be in line for raises of as much as 20 percent in each of the next three years. If he waits to become a free agent — as Japanese predecessors Hideki Matsui and Hiroki Kuroda did — he’ll earn the right to negotiate with all 30 clubs, greatly driving up his price tag. Because elite starters can earn as much as $20 million annually on the open market, Darvish would score far more money than Dice-K’s $52 million, particularly considering that he’ll be a prime 28 years old in 2014.

So, in order to properly compensate Darvish, the Rangers will have to not only pay him more than the $25-$30 million he’s likely to receive in Japan over the next three seasons, but also compensate him for missing out on free agency in any years they want to add to the deal after that. In this way, it’s rather similar to working out a deal that not only covers a player’s arbitration years, but also their first two or three years of free agency.

Of course, there are other things to consider including a new market that’s seemingly fascinated with the Japanese phenomenon, and likely to pay for his product endorsement and to make additional appearances, not to mention the opportunity to compete at the highest level on an already very good team that should once again compete for the World Series.

It’s been a fascinating drama that in some ways will come to an end later this afternoon, while also holding the possibility of really only representing the beginning.