Yu Darvish Reportedly Will Move to Majors in 2012
Rumors flew in both directions earlier this year until Darvish himself said in October that he would be remaining with the Nippon Ham Fighters for the 2011 season. That took care of the short term, but left the door open for something down the road. We've now got our answer, via David Lennon of Newsday.
Darvish is going to come to the U.S., but he's not going to make the leap until next year with designs on making his big-league debut in 2012. The reason for the delay isn't baseball related. Per Lennon, Darvish is going through a divorce and presumably doesn't want to put more on his plate than he can handle at present.
Darvish turned 24 in August and has spent the last six years in the Pacific League with the Ham Fighters. He pitched for Japan in both the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Darvish is widely considered to be the top Japanese pitching prospect. He's struck out 974 batters and posted a 2.12 ERA over 1,036 1/3 innings in Japan, numbers that are easy enough to translate without ever seeing the man pitch.
With numbers like that, you'd expect to see Darvish command a huge price next year, but will teams be put off by those innings totals? You're not going to find many pitchers with that heavy a workload at that age on our shores, and Darvish will have another full season of wear and tear before hitting the posting system.
Given the injury problems Daisuke Matsuzaka has dealt with in Boston, there's reason to believe that the workload of Japanese pitchers before they come to America winds up hampering them once they get here.
That said, there will still be bidders. As of right now the best free-agent pitchers on next year's market, excepting players with options, will be Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson and C.J. Wilson. All are appealing, but none has the combination of youth and ability that Darvish has flashed in Japan.