As the deadline for placing a bid on Japanese sensation Yu Darvish draws near, increasingly we are hearing various Yankee beat reporters downplaying the idea that the Yanks will be aggressive in pursuing him. Newsday’s Eric Boland says there are elements for and against bidding on Darvish, and that the final decision will rest with Hal Stienbrenner. Joel Sherman wrote earlier this week that he doubts the Yanks will even place a bid. (TYA fave) Marc Carig followed up with a similar piece on Thursday. In his latest post at ESPN-NY Wallace Matthews speculates that after speaking to sources in the Yankee brass, he thinks neither Darvish or Cespedes will be Yankees next year.
While I respect the Yankee beat writers, everything I’ve seen has been their interpretation of off the record remarks from unnamed Yankee officials. I’ve yet to read a single quote that leads me to believe the Yanks are out or not all that interested. One should understand that due to the unique nature of the Japanese posting system, it behooves the Yanks to downplay their interest publicly even if privately they’re drooling over him. Think about it. If the Yanks told the world that they love him, it would send a signal to the Blue Jays and Rangers to be more aggressive with their bids. This isn’t free agency where agents tell you what other teams are offering. It’s a blind bidding process, so one has to make a value judgement on the player AND try to gauge where other bidders will be. Anything that potentially holds down other bids could aid you in landing him. Keep in mind what I reported that Brian Cashman said at last year’s WFAN Breakfast-“Everything I say (publicly) has meaning. They’re like bread crumbs leading you in the direction of where I stand on a player.” With that in mind, let’s look at the recent Yankee quotes on Darvish:
“I think with anything else, you learn over time. I think we’re more prepared today than we have been in the past”
Some have read that to mean the Igawa experience led the Yanks to understand just how difficult the transition can be. But the Yanks are reported to have scouted Darvish far more extensively than Igawa, having scouts watching him for the past 3 years. I think when Cashman says they are more prepared, he’s saying they have much more information this time.
“Timing is everything, when people become available,” Cashman said. “Sometimes if you like somebody a great deal, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be in a position to participate. Obviously, he’s extremely talented, so if he’s going to get posted and stuff, it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.”
As is so often the case with Brian, this can be read two ways. Pro-Darvish fans can say his timing is right in a weak FA market and the Yanks having an obvious need, while anti-Darvish folks will say the Yanks have repeatedly claimed they don’t have a lot of room in their budget.
Hal Stienbrenner-“Every person is different, every player is different,” the Yanks’ Managing General Partner said. “We’re going to look at every single one, we’re going to look at every single option and we’re going to analyze it. We look at each person as an individual, and that” — previously failures with Japanese pitchers — “is not going to be a factor, at least not with me.”
That should take care of the ‘Yanks failed on Igawa’ crowd. It won’t, but it should.
Let me make something clear. I don’t intend this piece to be tossing crumbs to those who are pinning their hopes on the Yanks landing the star Japanese import. I happen to be in the camp that has enormous doubts about the prudence of spending 100M (120M+ after luxury taxes) on what is effectively a college pitcher. Too many times we’ve seen can’t miss prospects struggle at the major league level after dominating when facing lesser competition. We often see the Yanks being hesitant on pitchers transitioning from the NL West to the AL East, so how can one assume Darvish’s transition from the NPB will be successful? If the Yanks do make an aggressive bid on Darvish and land him, I will have to trust the judgement of talent evaluators who have been scouting him for the past 3 years. But if that day comes, I will enter the Yu Darvish experience with my eyes wide open. We’ve seen this Broadway show before, sometimes garnering rave reviews and other times being a total flop.
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