2:15 PM ET, 10/ 1/2010
Given the thin market for top-shelf starting pitching, the Nationals may have to be creative in how they achieve General Manager Mike Rizzo's goal of landing a frontline starter. They could accomplish that and provide proof they've improved their international scouting effort with one move: pursuing Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish.
It would be speculative at this point to gauge the Nationals' interest in Darvish, but he is on their radar. Nationals scouts have seen Darvish pitch in person at least nine times, including several games in Japan, and they have been impressed enough to recommend to the front office that he is worth trying to sign.
Last year, the Nationals showed their willingness to pursue top international when they offered $25 million to Cuban flamethrower Aroldis Chapman, a bid that finished second to the Reds' bid of $30 million.
Darvish, according to multiple reports, is likely to come available this offseason by his team, Nippon Ham Fighters, entering him into the "posting" system, wherein major league teams bid to pay Nippon for the right to negotiate with - and presumably sign - Darvish.
How much it would cost to win the bid is "the $64,000 question," one major league scout said. Some reports have speculated it will take roughly $25 million to win the bid, which would come before actually signing the pitcher.
Darvish, 23, has been absurdly dominant in his Nippon Professional Baseball, better than any of the numerous pitchers who have made the transition from Japanese baseball to the majors. In the past five years, Darvish has more strikeouts (921) than hits and walks allowed combined (911) in 941 innings. Take a look at his stats since 2006, when he 19:
2006: 149 2/3 IP, 115 K, 64 BB, 1.28 WHIP, 2.89 ERA
2007: 207 2/3 IP, 210 K, 49 BB, 0.83 WHIP, 1.82 ERA
2008: 200 2/3 IP, 208 K, 44 BB, 0.90 WHIP, 1.88 ERA
2009: 182 IP, 167 K, 45 BB, 0.90 WHIP, 1.73 ERA
2010: 201 IP, 221 K, 47 BB, 1.01 WHIP, 1.79 ERA