Jan. 18 Update: Darvish has signed a six-year $60-million deal, according to ESPN.
By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor
One of Japan’s most successful professional pitchers just might be on his way to Major League Baseball as the Texas Rangers have won the bidding rights for Yu Darvish of the NPB’s Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and now have 30 days to sign him to a big-league deal.
In the past five seasons, the 6-foot-5 right-hander has compiled a 76-28 record with a 1.72 ERA and 1,083 strikeouts in 1,024-plus innings of work. The Rangers bid? A record $51.7 million — for the right to try and sign him.
His 2005 BBM Japanese Rookie Cards have been consistent sellers of late, but his hottest cards should already be recognizable to American collectors as he appears on nearly 80 cards made by Topps for the World Baseball Classic in its 2009 products.
In all, the Japan’s WBC ace appeared on 77 cards with a total value of $1,765 for those not too rare to price. Of the 77 cards, 63 are serial-numbered and 23 of them feature game-used memorabilia pieces from the WBC.
In recent completed sales, his 1/1 2009 Bowman Sterling World Baseball Classic Relic Red Refractor sold for $1,500, while a 2009 Bowman Sterling WBC Relic card with a patch piece fetched $347.
Meanwhile, a BGS 9.5 copy of his 2009 WBC Prospects Bowman Chrome Gold Refractor /50 sold for $306 and several other Topps rarities from 2009 have routinely fetched $100 and up — before his MLB rights were even known.
Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.