Rangers win Darvish rights with record bid

Yu Darvish is 93-38 with a 1.99 ERA in his career in Japan

The Texas Rangers won the rights to negotiate with star Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish by placing a record $51.7 million bid in a posting auction, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Darvish's team in Japan, the Nippon Ham Fighters, will accept the bid, which means the Rangers have 30 days to negotiate a contract with Darvish. If they cannot work out a deal, Darvish would return to Japan for the 2012 season and the Rangers would be refunded the posting fee.

The 25-year-old Darvish, considered the best pitcher from Japan to try to play in MLB, has posted five consecutive seasons of a sub-2.00 ERA. His best season came last year, when he went 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA and struck out 276 in 232 innings.

Just how much the Rangers are willing to spend on Darvish is the question that will consume them well into the new year. Their American League West rivals, the Los Angeles Angels, dropped $254 million for Albert Pujols and stole Texas' top starter, C.J. Wilson, for $77.5 million.

Darvish is expected to command a bigger contract than Daisuke Matsuzaka, who signed with the Boston Red Sox for six years and $52 million after they paid the previous high posting fee, $51.1 million.

With a fastball around 92-95 mph, a top-shelf slider and an array of other off-speed pitches, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Darvish cuts the figure of a No. 1 starter. While the success of Japanese pitchers in the major leagues has varied, Darvish is viewed by scouts and executives alike as a potential frontline pitcher.

The Rangers, back-to-back AL champions, will slot him in their rotation alongside Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz, whom they have said they intend to move from closer to starter.

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