UPDATE 2 P.M.: The confirmations are flying fast and furious in the Twittersphere: The Rangers and Yu Darvish have reached agreement on a six-year deal. Jeff Passan of Yahoo says it’s for $60 million, with bonuses that can add up to $10 million. Mr. Boras, your move.
As you can see, it’s a stay-at-home snow day today in the Seattle area, though not quite the “Snowmageddon” that was predicted. Yet. That’s our backyard view this morning in Bellevue. Duke, our black lab, loves it. Being a Southern California boy, I’ve never warmed up to snow. How many days until pitchers and catchers report, again?
Today is a signficant day in baseball, because Yu Darvish, the Japanese ace, has until 2 p.m. Seattle time to reach agreement with the Rangers, or he will return to the Nippon Ham Fighters for the 2012 season (and the Fighters wouldn’t get their $51,703,411 posting fee). And no, Darvish does not become an unrestricted free agent next year in that scenario. He doesn’t have enough service time. If Darvish would want to take another crack at pitching in MLB in 2013, he would have to go through the posting system again.
That said, my prediction is that the Darvish negotiations will go down to the wire, and he will sign. My sense is that he wants to pitch over here. The Rangers have a strong need for him, having lost C.J. Wilson to the Angels. It will get done.
Either way, once the Darvish situation is resolved, Prince Fielder’s negotiations should — finally — hit the fast track. There’s no question Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras, is waiting out the Darvish situation in hopes of getting the Rangers involved. As with everything related to Fielder this winter, there are conflicting opinions about Texas’s level of interest in Fielder. Some believe they will go after him even if they sign Darvish, while more believe that a Darvish signing would preclude Fielder in Texas.
The most interesting thing I’ve heard on that subject recently came in a television appearance by Evan Grant, the Rangers’ beat writer for the Dallas Morning News. According to this transcript, Grant said Fielder has made it “very, very clear” he wants to play for Texas. If the Darvish deal falls through somehow, look out. I’d say the chances are good he ends up with Texas in that case. If Darvish signs with the Rangers– and there indications even since I started writing this post that it’s going to happen; Jon Paul Morosi tweeted they are close — then who knows? That’s when Boras will try to perform his special brand of magic.
Where does that leave the Mariners? Still a longshot, but still positioned to be a fallback for Fielder if his other options (Nationals? Marlins? Mystery team?) dry up. The Montero trade really shouldn’t change much for Seattle, because it didn’t involve any salary increase. Particularly if the Mariners envision Montero as a catcher, there’s still a spot for Fielder on their team. However, the biggest obstacle, as always, appears to be convincing Fielder that Seattle would be a good place for him, despite the location, despite their lack of recent success, despite a ballpark with a reputation for being a killer of power hitters (though not really for left-handed hitters, but a reputation is a reputation), and despite a lineup he may well perceive as lacking protection for him. Maybe Montero will help in that regard. At any rate, the end game should begin very soon. Mercifully.
Elsewhere, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com has been churning out his prospects rankings by position, and so far it’s been encouraging for the Mariners. Today, he did shortstops, and Nick Franklin ranked sixth. The M’s had two of his top 10 left-handed pitching prospects, Danny Hultzen at No. 3 and James Paxton at No. 8. And Taijuan Walker was Mayo’s eighth-ranked right-handed pitcher. Speaking of Walker, here’s a glowing scouting report that should excite Mariners fans. And speaking of Hultzen, here’s a Q and A with him from MILB.com.
Finally, on his conference call yesterday to talk about joining the Mariners Hall of Fame, Randy Johnson addressed the question of whether he would go into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown (as a likely first ballot selection in 2015) as a Mariner or Diamondback. The policy of the Hall of Fame now is to largely take that decision out of the players’ hands but they do get to express a preference.
“That decision is not really up to me,” he said. “From what I understand, I have some say. Both teams are deserving. If I am selected to go into the Hall of Fame, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Really, I’ve been preoccupied with family and other ventures, so I’m not worried about that. It’s still several years down the road.”
Fortunately, I already solved that problem two years ago in one of my weirder blog posts ever. But check it out for no other reason than the graphic.