A Yu-ge Investment

In roughly three weeks, the Texas Rangers should sign Yu Darvish to a contract that will represent their largest ever investment in a pitcher, likely nine figures when combined with the $51.7MM posting fee to acquire his rights. That kind of money for a pitcher is very rare in baseball and gives us an idea on how much production the Rangers are hoping to get for their investment*. It's difficult to compare Darvish to other pitchers that teams spent over $100MM to acquire because of his age. Highly talented pitchers entering their age 25 season just aren't available for teams to acquire by just spending money; it wouldn't surprise me to see close to $200MM spent if Felix Hernandez or Clayton Kershaw could be acquired for money alone.

* I've seen discussion that the cost of Darvish is offset in some way by additional revenue from being a superstar. I agree with Dave Cameron in that big ticket signings don't drive attendance, and while Darvish's specific starts will garner tremendous attention at first regardless of winning, I don't expect it to continue if the team is playing poorly and in a terribly inexact way I'm going to brush any small gains as offset by the time value of paying $51.7MM upfront.

A comparison I find more interesting is imagining the Rangers have a time machine and can pick a 25 year old pitcher from 1990 to now and get their production for the next five years for their age 25 to 29 seasons* and see how that measures against the range of the expected cost of Yu Darvish.

* Active pitchers currently in that range are included with their average production beginning at age 25.

We can come up with a reasonable range based on some of the rumors we've heard and Daisuke Mastuzaka's contract from 2007. At the high end, we've heard Darvish's camp is seeking a 5 year, $75MM deal. That works out to a $15MM AAV which is almost double the $8.7MM AAV that Daisuke received from the Red Sox in a 6 year, $52MM deal. It's possible that the Rangers will agree to that amount, but I'm guessing the AAV will be in the $10-12MM range, an amount still a step above Daisuke's contract. The other key negotiable element is the length of the contract, likely either five or six years with Darvish likely seeking the shorter term and immediate free agency to allow for his next contract sooner.

High End: $51.7MM posting fee + $75MM contract over five years = $25.3MM AAV

Low End: $51.7MM posting fee + $60MM contract over six years = $18.6MM AAV

That gives us a range of $18.6MM to $25.MM in annual cost if you prorate the posting fee over the length of the contract to compare to. For determining value, I'll use the $4.7MM Dan Szymborski of ESPN and BBTF provided us in his ZIPS projection of Darvish* for the cost per WAR. The tables below show groups of pitchers with their average year from ages 25 to 29.

* ZIPS projected 22.4 WAR over five years for a total of $105.3MM in value or $21.1MM in AAV.

The Elite

This group of pitchers represents some of the very best pitchers in the game and if Darvish produces at this "Ace" level the Rangers will have received surplus value (and made Rangers fans weep with joy). As a reminder, Pedro Martinez was ridiculous.

Start End Name Age Avg W Avg L Avg IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA FIP Avg WAR AAV
1997 2001 Pedro Martinez 25 to 29 16.8 5.6 204.1 11.42 2.07 0.67 2.19 2.37 8.7 $41.0
1991 1995 Greg Maddux 25 to 29 18.0 8.0 241.8 6.79 1.96 0.40 2.43 2.74 7.4 $34.7
2004 2008 Johan Santana 25 to 29 17.2 7.8 229.1 9.36 2.07 1.05 2.91 3.32 6.4 $30.1
2006 2010 CC Sabathia 25 to 29 17.6 8.6 230.7 8.05 2.18 0.74 3.12 3.24 6.4 $29.9
2008 2011 Justin Verlander 25 to 28 18.0 10.0 229.0 8.47 3.08 0.75 3.89 3.45 6.3 $29.5
2009 2011 Zack Greinke 25 to 27 14.0 9.3 206.8 8.67 2.20 0.71 3.52 2.97 6.1 $28.7
1993 1997 Kevin Appier 25 to 29 12.6 9.6 208.1 7.99 3.21 0.68 3.47 3.44 5.9 $27.5
2002 2006 Roy Halladay 25 to 29 15.4 6.2 199.9 6.40 1.82 0.73 3.30 3.35 5.8 $27.4
2009 2011 Tim Lincecum 25 to 27 14.7 10.3 218.1 9.63 3.27 0.62 2.90 2.98 5.8 $27.1
2004 2008 Brandon Webb 25 to 29 15.4 10.6 226.9 7.06 3.23 0.65 3.36 3.65 5.7 $26.6
2011 2011 Felix Hernandez 25 to 25 14.0 14.0 233.2 8.55 2.58 0.73 3.47 3.13 5.5 $25.9

The Very Good

The next group falls into the expected range that Darvish will cost and is filled with mostly top of the rotation pitchers in the #1 to #2 range. This is probably the range that ZIPs and many of the scouting reports we've heard put him in and if he performs at this level I would feel it was a good investment. The two pitchers at the bottom of this list are an odd pairing, one is only one year into his age 25 to 29 seasons and had surprisingly good season, the other is three years in and considered one of the best in the game.

Start End Name Age Avg W Avg L Avg IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA FIP Avg WAR AAV
1990 1994 Jose Rijo 25 to 29 13.4 7.8 208.3 7.67 2.50 0.59 2.64 2.93 5.4 $25.3
2009 2011 Ubaldo Jimenez 25 to 27 14.7 11.0 209.1 8.47 3.65 0.61 3.80 3.42 5.3 $24.8
2009 2011 Jon Lester 25 to 27 16.3 8.7 200.8 9.40 3.33 0.81 3.38 3.38 5.3 $24.8
2006 2010 Dan Haren 25 to 29 14.2 10.4 225.1 8.03 1.86 1.08 3.58 3.61 5.2 $24.3
2003 2007 Roy Oswalt 25 to 29 15.8 8.4 207.5 7.11 2.04 0.71 3.12 3.32 5.1 $24.0
1994 1998 Mike Mussina 25 to 29 16.4 8.6 214.1 7.26 2.14 1.03 3.68 3.76 5.0 $23.5
1992 1996 John Smoltz 25 to 29 14.4 9.6 213.8 8.24 3.06 0.77 3.36 3.38 4.9 $23.1
2001 2005 Tim Hudson 25 to 29 15.0 8.0 218.7 5.86 2.54 0.70 3.22 3.70 4.8 $22.7
2011 2011 David Price 25 to 25 12.0 13.0 224.1 8.75 2.53 0.88 3.49 3.32 4.7 $22.1
1991 1995 Jack McDowell 25 to 29 16.8 9.8 233.6 6.25 2.66 0.75 3.52 3.61 4.7 $22.0
1997 2001 Andy Pettitte 25 to 29 16.4 9.6 210.4 6.16 3.19 0.72 4.12 3.90 4.7 $21.9
2008 2011 Jered Weaver 25 to 28 14.5 9.5 211.6 8.14 2.45 0.95 3.39 3.52 4.7 $21.9
2005 2009 Josh Beckett 25 to 29 16.0 8.4 193.8 8.18 2.46 1.05 4.01 3.77 4.6 $21.8
2004 2008 John Lackey 25 to 29 14.4 8.6 202.3 7.32 2.63 0.83 3.79 3.72 4.6 $21.7
2009 2011 Josh Johnson 25 to 27 9.7 4.0 150.8 8.68 2.47 0.45 2.63 2.70 4.5 $21.3
1998 2002 Bartolo Colon 25 to 29 16.2 8.4 210.4 7.69 3.59 0.91 3.73 3.92 4.5 $21.2
2004 2008 Ben Sheets 25 to 29 10.6 8.8 167.7 8.65 1.53 0.93 3.21 3.07 4.5 $21.1
2010 2011 Matt Cain 25 to 26 12.5 11.0 222.2 7.20 2.51 0.63 3.01 3.28 4.5 $20.9
1998 2002 Brad Radke 25 to 29 12.0 12.0 200.3 5.48 1.70 1.03 4.18 4.04 4.4 $20.9
1991 1995 Tom Glavine 25 to 29 18.2 8.2 214.7 6.20 3.06 0.49 3.09 3.35 4.4 $20.8
2007 2010 Adam Wainwright 25 to 28 16.0 8.5 199.3 7.30 2.61 0.62 2.99 3.37 4.4 $20.6
1990 1994 Erik Hanson 25 to 29 10.0 10.2 186.7 6.71 2.58 0.69 4.00 3.33 4.4 $20.5
2004 2008 Mark Buehrle 25 to 29 13.8 10.4 220.9 5.34 1.97 1.13 3.98 4.29 4.3 $20.1
2002 2006 Javier Vazquez 25 to 29 11.8 12.4 215.1 7.90 2.22 1.23 4.25 3.91 4.2 $19.8
1992 1996 Charles Nagy 25 to 29 12.4 7.0 173.9 6.16 2.46 0.78 3.98 3.66 4.2 $19.8
2011 2011 Matt Harrison 25 to 25 14.0 9.0 185.2 6.11 2.76 0.63 3.39 3.52 4.2 $19.7
2009 2011 Cole Hamels 25 to 27 12.0 10.3 205.8 8.35 2.17 1.02 3.43 3.51 4.1 $19.1


The Just "Good"

The final group of pitchers are all valuable starters, but not the sort you'd want to pay $100MM+ for their age 25 to 29 seasons (though some blossomed into fantastic pitchers). Rangers fans level of disappointment would increase the closer to the bottom of the list you got and if you fall of the list altogether then words like "colossal" and "bust" come into play.

Start End Name Age Avg W Avg L Avg IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA FIP Avg WAR AAV
1990 1994 Kevin Brown 25 to 29 12.8 10.8 211.7 5.22 3.01 0.64 3.92 3.80 3.9 $18.5
2007 2011 James Shields 25 to 29 13.2 11.0 220.3 7.62 2.06 1.19 4.01 3.90 3.8 $18.0
2000 2004 Livan Hernandez 25 to 29 13.6 13.4 234.1 6.07 2.90 0.90 4.12 4.03 3.8 $18.0
2010 2011 Justin Masterson 25 to 26 9.0 11.5 198.0 6.82 3.24 0.60 4.05 3.65 3.8 $17.9
1992 1996 Juan Guzman 25 to 29 11.4 8.2 174.1 7.29 4.16 0.90 4.87 4.21 3.8 $17.9
1994 1998 Denny Neagle 25 to 29 14.8 8.6 202.1 6.91 2.39 1.01 3.81 3.92 3.8 $17.8
2010 2011 John Danks 25 to 26 11.5 11.5 191.6 7.00 2.68 0.89 4.04 3.76 3.8 $17.6
1993 1997 Scott Erickson 25 to 29 11.6 11.8 200.3 5.03 2.99 0.79 4.96 4.24 3.7 $17.6
2009 2011 Edwin Jackson 25 to 27 11.7 10.0 207.4 7.14 3.06 0.92 4.01 3.89 3.7 $17.5
2008 2011 Gavin Floyd 25 to 28 12.5 11.3 194.9 7.10 2.62 0.96 4.12 3.87 3.7 $17.5
2010 2011 Ian Kennedy 25 to 26 15.0 7.0 208.0 7.86 2.96 1.08 3.54 4.01 3.7 $17.4
1990 1994 Dwight Gooden 25 to 29 11.4 9.2 175.5 7.04 2.82 0.68 3.84 3.33 3.7 $17.3
1992 1996 Curt Schilling 25 to 29 9.6 8.2 168.5 7.28 2.44 0.79 3.40 3.41 3.7 $17.2
1994 1998 Pat Hentgen 25 to 29 14.0 10.6 216.2 5.89 3.31 1.07 4.24 4.54 3.6 $17.0
1993 1997 Andy Benes 25 to 29 12.0 11.0 198.1 8.07 3.17 0.91 3.88 3.73 3.6 $17.0
1993 1997 Tom Gordon 25 to 29 10.6 8.8 179.3 7.08 4.33 0.73 4.38 4.09 3.6 $16.9
2002 2006 Freddy Garcia 25 to 29 14.4 10.4 215.7 6.66 2.63 1.19 4.24 4.26 3.6 $16.8
2008 2011 Ricky Nolasco 25 to 28 13.0 9.5 190.1 7.94 1.93 1.12 4.48 3.62 3.6 $16.7
2010 2011 Brandon Morrow 25 to 26 10.5 9.0 162.6 10.49 3.69 0.91 4.63 3.45 3.6 $16.7
2010 2011 Ricky Romero 25 to 26 14.5 10.0 217.5 7.27 3.34 0.86 3.28 3.95 3.5 $16.5
2011 2011 Gio Gonzalez 25 to 25 16.0 12.0 202.0 8.78 4.05 0.76 3.12 3.64 3.5 $16.5
1990 1994 Greg Swindell 25 to 29 10.6 11.0 200.7 5.75 1.62 0.97 3.82 3.60 3.5 $16.4
2000 2004 Kevin Millwood 25 to 29 11.6 9.2 182.6 7.07 2.81 0.97 4.22 3.89 3.4 $16.2
2006 2010 Jake Peavy 25 to 29 11.2 8.6 161.3 9.11 2.88 0.88 3.54 3.44 3.4 $16.2
2003 2007 Aaron Harang 25 to 29 11.6 9.0 182.7 7.22 2.31 1.14 4.20 4.00 3.4 $16.2
2004 2008 Erik Bedard 25 to 29 9.2 7.6 147.5 8.31 3.70 0.80 3.94 3.76 3.4 $16.1
2011 2011 Jordan Zimmermann 25 to 25 8.0 11.0 161.1 6.92 1.73 0.67 3.18 3.16 3.4 $16.0
2003 2007 Brad Penny 25 to 29 12.4 8.4 182.2 6.58 2.59 0.83 3.79 3.75 3.3 $15.7
1993 1997 Shane Reynolds 25 to 29 8.6 7.2 148.8 7.88 1.86 0.79 3.67 3.21 3.3 $15.7
1993 1997 Ben McDonald 25 to 29 10.0 8.8 162.3 6.56 3.20 0.87 3.82 4.04 3.3 $15.6
2010 2011 Chad Billingsley 25 to 26 11.5 11.0 189.6 7.66 3.63 0.53 3.89 3.45 3.3 $15.5
1995 1999 Aaron Sele 25 to 29 12.0 8.8 156.7 7.22 3.67 0.90 4.90 4.25 3.3 $15.3
2010 2011 Max Scherzer 25 to 26 13.5 10.0 195.1 8.27 2.93 1.11 3.92 3.90 3.3 $15.3
1998 2002 Derek Lowe 25 to 29 7.8 6.8 126.7 6.58 2.55 0.54 3.24 3.36 3.2 $15.2
2009 2011 Matt Garza 25 to 27 11.0 10.7 201.7 8.00 3.07 1.00 3.74 3.87 3.2 $15.2
1998 2002 Mike Hampton 25 to 29 13.8 9.8 209.7 5.23 4.04 0.96 4.68 4.75 3.2 $15.1
2003 2007 Jake Westbrook 25 to 29 11.4 10.6 184.3 4.81 2.82 0.73 4.18 4.14 3.2 $15.0
2002 2006 A.J. Burnett 25 to 29 8.2 7.4 138.3 8.45 3.47 0.65 3.63 3.39 3.2 $14.9
2008 2011 Ervin Santana 25 to 28 13.0 9.3 202.2 7.27 2.74 1.14 3.90 4.16 3.1 $14.7
2006 2010 Carlos Zambrano 25 to 29 13.6 7.8 183.3 7.69 4.28 0.77 3.72 4.14 3.1 $14.6
2011 2011 Yovani Gallardo 25 to 25 17.0 10.0 207.1 8.99 2.56 1.17 3.52 3.59 3.1 $14.6
2005 2009 Jon Garland 25 to 29 14.2 10.2 208.1 4.52 2.35 0.99 4.17 4.43 3.1 $14.5
2000 2004 Matt Morris 25 to 29 13.6 7.6 170.7 6.67 2.44 0.94 3.79 3.84 3.1 $14.5
1995 1999 Alex Fernandez 25 to 29 10.4 7.6 164.5 6.90 2.70 0.95 3.55 3.92 3.1 $14.5
2004 2008 Cliff Lee 25 to 29 14.6 7.0 180.3 6.56 2.96 1.29 4.82 4.66 3.1 $14.4
2007 2011 Scott Baker 25 to 29 11.0 7.4 163.9 7.36 2.10 1.11 4.07 3.87 3.0 $14.2
1994 1998 Darryl Kile 25 to 29 11.4 10.6 195.7 7.34 4.20 0.74 4.52 4.15 3.0 $14.1
2009 2011 Anibal Sanchez 25 to 27 8.3 9.7 159.0 7.92 3.57 0.77 3.68 3.68 3.0 $14.1
1992 1996 Jaime Navarro 25 to 29 12.2 10.0 197.1 5.26 2.84 0.83 4.54 4.12 3.0 $14.1
2006 2010 Joe Blanton 25 to 29 12.0 9.6 198.3 5.75 2.48 0.98 4.48 4.18 3.0 $13.9
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