Griffin: Darvish bid well worth the effort for Jays
The uniqueness of the posting process for Japanese baseball free agents like Yu Darvish is that not even the team with the winning offer is supposed to know they won until four days after the close of bidding. But, of course, in major-league baseball, things have a way of leaking and Tuesday is a long way off.
This is not like a regular auction where you can go back in and tug your ear and bid again and bump the offer by a dollar and have somebody knock you off the board, etc. until the guy pounds the gavel and says "Sold to the guy in the Blue Jays hat." This is one sealed bid. That's it, that's all.
Of course, the Jays are as tightlipped as any sports organization out there, but even Jays' GM Alex Anthopoulos doubts the news will hold until Dec. 20. The following is analysis of what I would have done if I was Anthopoulos. Sometimes he listens.
What would be a good bid for the Jays? Let's see. Go big or go home will be the motto. Last time there was a Japanese star of this stature posted, it was Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Red Sox winning bid was for $51 million. The Sox were rumoured to be $10 million north of the runner-up Dodgers. Who knew?
Now, five years later, it's time to review and compare this year's contenders for Darvish.
1-The Red Sox must feel they were burned by Dice-K. Even with Bobby Valentine as skipper, who managed successfully in Japan, they are not in the mood. Scratch them.
2-The Yankees have had nothing but bad experiences with Japanese pitchers starting with the late Hideki Irabu. Besides they had to re-up CC Sabathia, just re-signed Freddy Garcia and are looking to have someone take A.J. Burnett off their hands.
3-The Dodgers, unless Nippon Ham is willing to take Mrs. McCourt as a down-payment, are in financial straits until their ownership issues are settled. She's a fighter.
4-The Angels just had a one-day spending binge last Thursday landing both first-baseman Albert Pujols and lefthander C.J. Wilson for a total of $331 million. Owner Arte Moreno would have to sell a lot more billboards to think of posting seriously for Darvish.
5-The Mariners have Ichiro and a long history with Japanese baseball, so one would expect that they will have to have posted on Darvish, perhaps hoping to lose by just "that much."
6-The Nationals were said to be in, but they own 10-percent of their own broadcast rights for a little while longer and contending in that division will be a long climb with the Phils, the Marlins and the Braves ahead of them. It would be a surprise if they won the bid.
So that leaves as true contenders, unless there's a mystery team out there, the Jays, the Rangers and the Cubs. The Cubs have Theo Epstein as president and he knows all about the Dice-K process, so it would seem likely that given how much they overbid last time, that $51 million might be his upper limit.
As for the Rangers, that's the team to watch out for other than the Jays. They have a huge new broadcast deal and even though it doesn't kick in for a few years, leaves them confident about their financial future. The question is are they heavy into Prince Fielder to counteract the Angels and Pujols. The Jays hope so.
That leaves Anthopoulos to make his decision on how much to post. Logic dictates that a bid of $52 million would be smart, expecting that it's going to cost you combined for Yu over $100 million in posting fees and a 5-6 year contract anyway. Remember: "Go big or go home." If someone else posts higher and you lose out, then God bless them. At least you can go back to Jays fans and not feel embarrassed about losing out.
There are solid reasons why winning the bid for the two-time MVP of the Japanese League, the 25-year-old Iranian-Japanese star would be great for the Jays. It's not just the untapped local Asian market and the 300-day infomercial for tourism in Japan.
Recall that when the bidding was ongoing for Aroldis Chapman, the Jays were rumoured to be hot and heavy into the hunt. Nobody believed the Jays were in because the previous regime had abandoned international free-agency as the domain of the big-market, free-spending teams and perception became reality. But when the dust had settled and the Reds had won the straight-up, no-posting, no-draft, Chapman free-agent bid, the Jays were on the podium. In fact, the Jays' brash young GM later let it be known that he had the go-ahead from Rogers ownership to bump up to the winning bid but backed off of his own volition because he thought it was above the value he had placed on the fireballing Cuban.
Then when young Cuban shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria hit the market, by that time nobody was surprised that the Jays were among the frontrunners and the industry just slightly taken aback that Toronto won the bidding. But that served to put the baseball world on notice that the Jays were a free-agent force to be reckoned with. Now comes Darvish and the possibility of paying more than $110 million in combined posting and salary - and the Jays and Rangers are being touted as the frontrunners.
The Jays need to be perceived inside their own clubhouse and out as major players in the marketplace. They need to become a mid-to-big market team again. That's why CEO Paul Beeston has stressed being a coast-to-coast Canadian team and stressed having a farm team in Vancouver, maybe more to come. That gives the Jays a fanbase of 35 million people and rockets them way out of small-market status. No excuses to compete.
And it's not just the Dallas Morning News, the Toronto Star and ESPN.com and CBS Sportline.com and FoxSports.com that are spreading the news.
Three times in the spacious lobby of the Anatole Hotel, between Sunday and Thursday, Anthopoulos was swarmed as he crossed the lobby by Japanese cameramen and reporters looking for an analysis of the Darvish situation and where the Jays stood. How do you say, "We don't talk about specific players," in Japanese. Just that one line would have served Alex well. Now the internet is abuzz and Twitter is a-twitter.
The news could come out at any time, but negotiations can only begin next Tuesday.