Griffin: Getting to know Yu
A source that has been covering and scouting the Japanese professional baseball leagues all of this past summer and has watched most of Yu Darvish's starts, indicates that the dominant feeling around Japan today is that the Jays are indeed the winners in the Yu Darvish sweepstakes. That doesn't mean it's 100 per cent fact. It's amazing that in this era of social networking no true confirmation had leaked as of Friday afternoon.
The winning bid for the 30-day window to negotiate with Darvish will officially be announced by MLB on Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 5 p.m. ET at which time the Nippon-Ham Fighters, Darvish's current team will also learn for the first time the actual identity of the team with the higest bid. Right now all the Fighters know is the amount and in the interim they must decide to accept or reject it.
My source in Japan sends some interesting updated info on Yu's season. The 6-5 righthander gained 22 lbs. this year and upped his velocity on the four-seam fastball to a top speed of 97 m.p.h. The righthander in 2011 posted the highest Japanese strikeout total in the past 19 years, but failed to win the Sawamura Award, the Japanese eqivalent of Cy Young. That was captured by Masahiro Tanaka, of the Rakuten Eagles.
Darvish' father was an Iranian soccer player who attended school in the States, meeting his Japanese-born wife in St. Petersburg, Fla., according to Rays' beat writer Marc Topkin.
That familiarity would suggest an easier transition to North American customs than was experienced by guys like Dice-K and bodes well for Darvish's immediate impact.
Yu is currently in the midst of divorce proceedings from his wife, a Japanese actress, and is rumoured to be dating a young Japanese golf pro.
For those interested in the history of posting, here are the four winning bids of over $10 millon since the process began in '99. Prior to this year there had been a total of 15 contracts posted by a player's Japanese league team, with eight playing in the majors.
1-Dice-K Matsuzaka...$51.11 millon by the Red Sox on 11/2/06
2-Kei Igawa...$26.0 million by the Yankees on 11/17/06
3-Ichiro Suzuki...$13.13 million by the Mariners on 11/9/00
4-Kaz Ishii...$11.26 million by the Dodgers on 1/3/02