Star Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish's desire for a five-year contract and the Texas Rangers' preference of a six-year deal is the greatest sticking point between the sides as negotiations barrel toward a deadline Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET, according to major league sources.
Although most players crave longer deals, Darvish, 25, would stand to benefit from a shorter contract.
Not only would he reach free agency a year earlier, he would reap market-value free agent dollars instead of the below-market contract Texas is offering. Because the Rangers placed a $51.7 million bid to his Japanese team strictly for the right to negotiate with Darvish, the deal they're pushing – similar to the six-year, $52 million deal the Boston Red Sox gave Daisuke Matsuzaka, according to a source – is far less than he would stand to earn in free agency.
[Related: Passan's ultimate free-agent tracker]
If Darvish were to agree to a sixth year, the compromise likely would come at a premium that would push the value of his deal well beyond that of Matsuzaka.
While the leverage would seem to tilt Darvish's way, especially after Friday's double-barrel power play by the New York Yankees landing starters Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda, the Rangers are ensuring themselves options. First baseman Prince Fielder, one of the best hitters in the major leagues, visited Texas on Friday, and the Rangers have kept negotiations open with other free-agent starters.
The likelihood of a total breakdown over the final four days of Texas' 30-day negotiating window with Darvish is minimal.
The relationship between the Rangers organization and Darvish's camp is strong and respectful, sources said, and both sides expect to complete a deal. Texas' professional approach impressed Darvish as much as his dynamic arm impressed the team enough to offer nine figures for his services despite not throwing a single pitch in the big leagues.
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- Yu Darvish