Everyone knew the price was going to be staggering, especially for a smaller club like the Kansas City Royals. In the end, the prominent rumors included both the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays as the two likely teams who ponied up a major sum of money for the chance to grab Yu Darvish, the Japanese pitching sensation who could become the next great ace or a total bomb in the transition to the States. That's the risk/reward potential for a player like Darvish.
In the end, it's clear the Rangers won the bid by paying a ridiculous amount of money -- even more than anyone really believed it would take. Jim Bowden says that it will cost the Rangers the same as C.J. Wilson's contract to land Darvish and the total could approach $150 million total. That's an amount few teams can understand.
Darvish's upside certainly warrants the risk if a team can take it. Bowden explains when he writes:
From a scouting perspective, the talent is all there for Darvish to be a top-of-the-rotation ace. The 25-year-old will sit in the 92-95 mph range with his fastballs, throwing a two-seamer, four-seamer and cutter. He throws a variety of off-speed stuff, but his slider is probably the best of the bunch. At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Darvish is athletic and deceptive in his delivery. He has phenomenal hip rotation and whip action with tremendous arm speed. The only question is how he’ll fare against the game’s best hitters on a consistent basis at the major league level. He’s a four-time Japan League All-Star and has had an ERA under 2.00 for five consecutive seasons, including a WHIP under 1.00 three different times. Off the field, Darvish has a Hollywood-type persona. He exudes charisma, charm and a special passion that permeates the clubhouse.
This type of signing is the highest possible risk with the highest possible reward. Frankly, it’s the type of move that can make or break a general manager’s career. Between the posting fee and Darvish’s contract, the Rangers will be committing between approximately $120 million and $150 million for a pitcher who has never pitched to a single batter in the majors. It’s a gamble from which most people would walk away. Therefore, you have to give credit to Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels for having the conviction to land a potential ace in order to keep up with their AL West rival Angels.
It's frustrating, however, to know that a team like the Kansas City Royals will never be able to break the bank like this. Blame it on market size. Say the owner isn't rich enough. Call it a matter of not wanting to be foolish. It can any of the three or all of them at the same time, but it's frustrating that the Royals could never really be a contender for a Darvish type of talent. The Royals need a frontline starting pitcher as much as anyone in baseball and, if they had one, they could conceivably make a playoff move starting this season. While they might have a surprise in them, the likelihood is that they won't until more of their young players mature.
But they will never be able to afford the frontline pitcher if they aren't willing to pay for one. You can try to develop one all you want, but some teams are never able to. See the Cincinnati Reds for their inability to develop one out of Aroldis Chapman or Homer Bailey so they finally just traded the farm for Mat Latos. The Royals might eventually have to do the same and trade a boatload of prospects or go all in with a load of cash. Either way it will cost, so the Royals are likely to do neither.
Yet when it comes to playoff time, a rotation comprised of Jonathan Sanchez and Bruce Chen isn't going to get it done. Unless Jeff Montgomery develops into the front end starter or Danny Duffy turns a major corner, that's not going to do either. The Royals have a lot of nice young arms that any team would love to have, but their "ace" material is all found among its position players. From Bubba Starling to Mike Moustakas to Will Myers to Eric Hosmer, the Royals will score runs in spades for the better part of the next decade. As for the pitching, well, we will see.
The Darvish signing only reveals the haves and the have-nots in the Major Leagues and combined with the recent Latos trade, shows what one team must do to get their ace while another signs a check. The Royals will have to go one route over the other but are likely inclined to do neither.