Like the Red Sox's Matsuzaka, Darvish will likely draw a contract of over $50 million, putting his overall price tag for the Rangers in excess of $100 million. And the comparisons with Matsuzaka go further. Both Matsuzaka and Darvish were best-of-the-best pitchers in Japan, and key players for Japan's team in the World Baseball Classic.
The worry that will likely be in the back of the Rangers' minds is that Darvish's similarities to Matsuzaka may continue once he's stateside.
Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci writes that Japanese players, once in the majors, have frequently started strong but petered out by their third year – a phenomenon now known as the "Third-Year Wall." And despite the Red Sox's broad preventative efforts to avoid a similar experience with Daisuke, "Matsuzaka crashed into The Wall. Over his first two seasons, Matsuzaka was 33-15 with a 3.72 ERA. But starting with Year Three, Matsuzaka has been 16-15 with a 5.03 ERA while suffering shoulder, hip and elbow injuries."
But River Ave. Blues writer Mike Axisa pointed out last week that Darvish's average numbers in Japan are even better than Matsuzaka's best. And he cites Patrick Newman of English-language Japanese baseball site NPB Tracker, who wrote that he is "more optimistic about him than I have been of anyone in the past." Still, Newman notes that the media pressure on Darvish will be even higher than usual for Japanese players coming to the majors, as he'll be under scrutiny from both sides of the Pacific.