December 14, 2011

Rangers give mixed signals as bidding closes for Japanese pitcher

Rangers brass are mum on whether a bid was submitted to the Nippon Ham Fighters for Yu Darvish.

Nolan Ryan was unable to attend the Texas Rangers' annual holiday media luncheon Wednesday because of a meeting with the ownership group, a session that just happened to fall on the day that posting bids on Yu Darvish were due.

Jon Daniels was there, though the Rangers' general manager took a phone call during lunch and conveniently, at least for him, was never seen again by media types seeking a word with him.

Assistant GM Thad Levine just walked away backward with a suspicious look on his face.

For a team that late Tuesday night didn't know if it would submit a bid for Darvish, its personnel sure seemed like it might have been up to something ahead of the 4p.m. deadline.

At least one team submitted a bid, prompting Major League Baseball to notify the commissioner of the Japanese League of the amount of the highest bid but not the identity of the winning club.

The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, Darvish's team, have four days to decide if they will accept the bid. A decision is expected before the deadline, and the winning team will have 30 days to negotiate a contract with the 25-year-old Darvish.

The total price tag could surpass $100 million.

The Rangers have downplayed the likelihood that they would be competitive bidders. Some club officials have suggested that the Rangers might not bid at all for the hard-throwing right-hander, even though he is coveted by many in the organization.

But a baseball source said that the Rangers' principal owners, Bob Simpson and Ray Davis, have expressed a willingness to spend on free agents this off-season. Perhaps they reinforced that to Ryan, the Rangers' president and CEO, during their meeting Wednesday.

Also, the reported lump-sum payment of $30 million to former CEO Chuck Greenberg has been disputed by two major-league sources. One said that Greenberg agreed to $18 million over four installments when he was pushed out of the organization in March.

The Rangers, though, have said many times that their goal this off-season is to lock up core players to contract extensions.

Free spending, they have said, isn't good business.

Ryan, Daniels and Levine were all quiet Wednesday. The Rangers' decision on Darvish, once revealed, will make some noise no matter how seriously they were involved.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

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