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Looking a little deeper at Darvish

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  December 8, 2011 01:33 PM

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DALLAS Skepticism is the best tool for a journalist. It's always better to assume you're being mislead and let the facts lead you to the truth.

That is particularly true with sports reporting. General managers regularly use the media as a smokescreen for their true intentions. It's standard practice.

With that in mind, here is what Ben Cherington said about the idea of pursuing Japanese star Yu Darvish:

"I'm not sure the timing this offseason puts us in a position to be the most aggressive team. But he's a good pitcher and we have a lot of respect for him. We'll certainly discuss it and figure out if a post makes sense. But we've got a lot of [financial] commitment to the starting rotation and feel pretty good about the front end of our rotation. Certainly if a team is going to be posting and trying to sign [Darvish], it's going to be part of the front end of the rotation and we feel pretty good about that part of our team."

So Cherington is saying no. But the skeptic has to look deeper. So let's do that.

The Red Sox do indeed have major financial commitments to their starting pitchers. Josh Beckett (3 years, $47.25 million); John Lackey (3 years, $45.75 million); Jon Lester (2 years, $19.25 million), Clay Buchholz (4 years, $29.95 million and Daisuke Matsuzaka (1 year, $10 million) are owed a combined $152.2 million over the next four seasons.

Add in the options for Lester and Buchholz and that figure rises to just shy of $192 million over six seasons. That's a significant amount of money. Is Darvish guaranteed to be better than their No. 3 starter? Nobody can say that. It's hard to say he'll be better than Lester and Buchholz without his having pitched an inning in the majors.

At the very least, Darvish will require a Matsuzaka-like commitment to obtain. We're talking $50 million in a posting fee and $50 million for a contract. That posting money may not count on payroll or against the luxury tax. But it's real money.

The Dice-K experience was not a good one for Boston. He had two good seasons and has been an albatross since. Darvish could well be better, but his statistics were compiled against the same competition as Matsuzaka's were. It's not fair to compare different players simply because they're Japanese. But if you were John Henry, would you be rushing back into that market after being burned?

The Red Sox recently fired International Scouting Director Craig Shipley, one of the driving forces behind the acquisition of Matsuzaka. That does not preclude them from trying to obtain Darvish. But it doesn't speak to a team that is all geared up and ready to make a move.

The x-factor is Bobby Valentine. Because he managed six seasons in Japan and speaks Japanese, it's natural to assume he would be the manager best suited to get the most out of Darvish.

Perhaps Valentine pounds his fist on the desk and says he must have Darvish and Henry listens.

Here's what Valentine said yesterday about Darvish:

"I have no idea if his talents will translate at the Major League level if he came here, but he's a quality pitcher. He has size, quality, velocity, breaking balls, very good hands. He makes the ball do a lot of crazy things on its way to the plate. Great competitor. If those things translate into another uniform, whether it's another uniform in Japan, who knows?"

Not a whole lot of fist pounding there. It's also worth noting that Valentine didn't manage Darvish and hasn't managed in Japan since 2009. It's not like they're best of friends.

In summation, there is nothing that suggests the Red Sox will make a serious bid for Darvish. There remains a chance this an elaborate game of possum but that chance is slim.

Darvish to the Blue Jays or Rangers. Not the Red Sox.

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