For some reason the buzz surrounding Japanese pitching sensation Yu Darvish possibly coming to the Blue Jays has me more excited than any rumour I can recall. Talk of Prince Fielder batting behind Joey Bats left me cold by comparison. I am trying to stave off this hysterical lapse in my ability to think critically by telling myself that he probably will end up in Texas anyway, so there isn't anything to get excited over, its all just unsubstantiated noise. But I can't help it, the notion just turns me into the kind pollyanna I typically scoff at derisively.
I think a lot of it stems from the immense trust I have in Alex Anthopoulos. For the last two years he has done nothing that would make me think he is capable of missing on a decision as monumental as investing what will likely amount to 9 figures in a player (posting+contract). We have every reason to believe that, in keeping with his modus operandi, AA has done some serious homework on Darvish, having seen him pitch in person multiple times (ditto for top lieutenant and scouting guru Tony LaCava).
There is always substantial risk inherent in any investment as large as this one could potentially be. But if the Blue Jays were ever going to make such an investment, how could they do better than Darvish? They would be getting his prime years, a rarity in free agency, and would be making a major upgrade in the main area of weakness the club currently has (unless and until the likes of Drabek, Hutchison and McGuire pan out).
The fact that Mr. Darvish plies his trade for the Nippon Ham Fighters does make projecting him somewhat problematic, admittedly. His career ERA being under 2, while impressive, is not as important as his peripherals when projecting future success. Fortunately, the relevant statistical evidence points to a pitcher who profiles to succeed in any environment. He generates ground balls at a high rate, misses bats, and almost never issues a walk (the things that pitchers are thought to be able to control). He's also a noted horse, logging a career high 233 IP this past season.
It is these numbers, and a tantalizing arsenal of pitches, that caused the risk-allergic Keith Law to rank Darvish third on his list of free agents, behind only Pujols and Fielder. I would feel very comfortable in setting 3.5 WAR as the floor for his first three seasons with a ceiling in the 6 range. And as others have written, even if Darvish doesn't quite end up earning 100% of his contract on the field, the additional revenue he will generate for the Jays off it will ameliorate this possible outcome.
So, my fellow Blue Jays fans, raise a glass of Kool-Aid with me in honour of the Whirling Darvish.