Japanese star pitcher Yu Darvish has agreed to a six-year deal worth $60 million with the Texas Rangers and will join the Major League Baseball club for the North American 2012 season.
The deal, according to the team's website, is worth about $60 million and came just ahead of a deadline for the Rangers to sign the 25-year-old right-hander or have him return to the Japan League for the upcoming season.
The Rangers, two-time defending American League champions but World Series losers the past two years, bid a record $51.7 million last month simply for the rights for a 30-day period to negotiate a deal with Darvish.
That span ended Wednesday afternoon in Texas with Darvish's agents reaching a deal that allowed the Rangers to add a formidable arm to their rotation in Darvish, who passed a physical when he visited the Rangers earlier this month.
"He is a polished kid who can pound the strike zone and command the breaking ball," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He has got a great body and a great work ethic. He will fit right in."
Had no deal been completed by the deadline, Darvish would have remained with the Hokkaido-based Nippon Ham Fighters and the Japanese club would not have received the record "posting" fee by the Rangers for negotiating rights.
Darvish, a star with the Fighters of Japan's Pacific League, will join the Rangers starting rotation, which figures to be finalized next month when players report for pre-season training.
The Rangers already had two Japanese pitchers on their roster, relievers Yoshinori Tateyama and Koji Uehara.
Darvish, who joined the Fighters in 2005 after high school, was born to an Iranian father and a Japanese mother. He was this season's highest-paid player in Japanese baseball at an estimated 500 million yen ($6.4 million) a season.
Texas, which lost to San Francisco in the 2010 World Series and St. Louis in the 2009 championship final, beat out the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays for the rights just to make a deal with Darvish.
But the Rangers' had to break the prior record posting fee of $51 million that the Boston Red Sox paid in 2006 for the rights to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka, who would sign a six-year deal worth $52 million with Boston.
Darvish went 18-6 last season for the Fighters with a 1.44 earned-run average and 276 strikeouts in 232 innings. At 6-foot-5 (196cm) and 216 pounds (98kg), his size and command of pitches figure to be baffling for US batters.
Darvish, who pitched for Japan in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2009 World Baseball Classic, has kept an earned-run average under 2.00 for the past five seasons in Japan. He has been the strikeout king three times and twice been named the Pacific League's Most Valuable Player.© ANP/AFP