ARLINGTON — Texas Rangers President and Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan was impressed by his first meeting with Japanese sensation Yu Darvish and is confident a contract will be completed by next week’s deadline.
“My expectations are that we’ll get something done,” Ryan said Thursday night, then added the term “optimistic.”
The Rangers last month bid a record $51.7 million under the posting system to win the right to negotiate with the 25-year-old Darvish, considered Japan’s best pitcher. The 30-day negotiating window for the two-time defending American League champions ends Wednesday at 4 p.m. CST.
Ryan declined to elaborate on negotiations, but didn’t express any concern about the possibility of them going down to the wire.
“That’s the nature of these things,” Ryan said before a team awards show that kicked off the Rangers’ annual winter FanFest weekend.
The 6-foot-5 Darvish last week visited Texas for the first time with his representatives and family members. He visited Rangers Ballpark and met with team officials, including Ryan, before returning home to Japan.
“Obviously, he was bigger than I thought,” Ryan said. “I thought he’s built like a pitcher. He looks good. I think he understands a lot of English and I just like his attitude about wanting to compete. To me, he represented all I had been led to believe, so I felt really good about it.”
That’s quite a compliment coming from Ryan, the hard-throwing Texan who played a record 27 major league seasons and is baseball’s career strikeout king.
The Rangers, who have been scouting Darvish’s games in Japan for at least two years, only pay the $51.7 million posting fee if he signs with them.
Darvish, the son of an Iranian father and a Japanese mother, went 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA last season for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. He had 276 strikeouts to lead the Pacific League.
Darvish, who turned pro at 18, pitched in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and was a member of the Japanese team that won the 2009 World Baseball Classic. The right-hander has superb control and throws seven effective pitches.
“I’ve never seen any film on him, but heard that he’s very good,” Michael Young, the Rangers’ longest-tenured player, said with a smile. “Very good players are always welcome.”
Texas has lost its No. 1 pitcher in free agency after each of the last two World Series.
Cliff Lee left after the 2010 season to return to Philadelphia, and left-hander C.J. Wilson agreed to a $77.5 million, five-year contract with the AL West rival Los Angeles Angels last month.
“I think everybody’s pretty optimistic that we’ll sign Yu Darvish and hopefully he can bring a lot to this team,” outfielder David Murphy said. “All I know is what I’ve seen on TV. … He looks like he’s got electric stuff.”