Yu Darvish could be the marketing departments dream, a network television star. He could also be the latest in a line of Japanese pitchers who failed to live up to the hype.
No one in the world knows for sure.
The Texas Rangers thought it was worth the risk and gambled 51.7 million upfront the posting fee first reported by Yahoo! Sports that Darvishs game will translate to the majors.
Major League Baseball announced late Monday night that it was the Rangers who put in the bid accepted by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. The Rangers now have 30 days to negotiate a deal with the 25-year-old Darvish and his representatives.
The Cubs submitted a bid last week, though its hard to imagine they were anywhere near that aggressive. Theo Epstein has looked into just about everything during his first two months on the job. But so far the president of baseball operations has been patient and cautious.
Its understandable why the Cubs didnt go all-in for Darvish, who registered 276 strikeouts in 232 innings last season and has posted a 1.72 ERA the past five years in Japan.
Winning this bidding war would have meant spending around 52 million just to be able to talk to a mystery player with zero big-league experience.
On Epsteins watch, the Boston Red Sox once invested more than 100 million in Daisuke Matsuzaka. The move paid immediate dividends as the Red Sox won the World Series in 2007 and Matsuzaka won 18 games the next season.
But since then the enigmatic pitcher has mostly been injured or ineffective, and is now recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays were said to have the most visible scouting presence on the days Darvish pitched last season. This development certainly wont motivate the Rangers to deal for Matt Garza.
The cost of pitching doesnt seem to be going down anytime soon. Combined this month Mark Buehrle (Miami Marlins) and C.J. Wilson (Los Angeles Angels) have signed for more than 135 million.
The San Diego Padres got four pieces back when they traded Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds over the weekend. The key difference between Latos and Garza is that Latos will be a free agent after the 2015 season, while Garza is under club control for two more years.
Teams that lost out on Darvish and Latos could pivot toward the Cubs. But its not exactly breaking news that teams like Garza and Sean Marshall. Epstein never mentioned them by name he didnt have to but heres what he acknowledged during the winter meetings.
Teams have called us more on the guys youd expect, Epstein said. We have a couple difference-making pitchers that have contracts that expire either in a year or two years, so its probably not a surprise that a lot of teams in baseball covet those guys.
But theyre also an important part of our pitching staff and theres a chance to possibly extend those pitchers and turn what looks like a short-term asset into a long-term asset.
Garza only fits on a team built to win now, or a large-market team that could afford to give him a contract extension. Perhaps the Blue Jays will enter the picture.
The Cubs could make a play for Padres first baseman Anthony Rizzo, a former Red Sox prospect who was included in the Adrian Gonzalez deal but might be blocked now. Still, Garza makes no sense for the Padres, unless they found a way to flip him to another team.
As Christmas approaches, look for the Cubs to go shopping for value. Pitchers like Paul Maholm, Joe Saunders and possibly Tim Wakefield would fit into their offseason profile more than Darvish.
The Cubs still havent made a splash, and might not all winter. They didnt land the pitcher who gets the rock-star treatment in Japan, and will likely go with guys whose names wont be put up in lights.
Darvish has been on big stages before, at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the 2009 World Baseball Classic, but nothing quite like this. The whole world will be watching.