Yu Darvish suddenly has become the hottest player available this off-season, now that Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle have found new teams.
Prince Fielder remains on the market but has taken a back seat the past few days to Darvish, the Japanese right-hander who many believe will be a star in the major leagues.
His team, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, is accepting bids from big-league teams for the right to negotiate a contract with Darvish through the posting system in place for Japanese players not eligible for free agency.
Bids are due at 4 p.m. today. The Texas Rangers have become quite familiar with Darvish, to the point that they have long been considered the team that would land him.
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The Rangers, though, aren't expecting to land him and might not even submit a bid. They are committed to the business model, which doesn't have room for a high-risk, high-dollar acquisition this off-season.
Speculation is that Darvish will command more than $100 million, between the posting fee and his contract. The Rangers already missed out on Wilson, who took a five-year, $77.5 million deal from Anaheim rather than stay in Arlington for four years.
Rangers ownership has shown a willingness to spend since taking over in August 2010. They've spent aggressively in Latin America, where the Rangers handed out the largest signing bonus ever for outfielder Nomar Mazara, and the 2012 payroll is expected to eclipse $110 million.
The focus this off-season remains locking up key players before they hit free agency, a process that is in the preliminary stages. The Rangers have explored trade possibilities, such as Oakland left-hander Gio Gonzalez.
A big contract for Darvish, though, seems unlikely ahead of today's deadline for bids to negotiate with him.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760