There wasn't a more publicized "free agency" case in baseball last year than that of Yu Darvish. Sure, there was Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, but as far as pure intrigue goes, nothing topped the pursuit of the Japanese pitching legend which was eventually won by the Texas Rangers.
Darvish went on to have a fantastic rookie season and finished the season as the best pitcher on the Rangers staff, leaving hardly any doubt that he's ready to be a No. 1 pitcher in 2013.
But now, the Rangers might be in on one of his countrymen, even if it's not as much of a slam dunk as Darvish was.
Shohei Otani, an 18-year-old Japanese right-hander, who throws 99 mph and stands 6-feet-4? Sign me up. Otani, who is just now eligible for the Nippon Professional Baseball league (the same one that produced Darvish) has told Japanese clubs he has elected to give it a go in Major League Baseball and doesn't want to waste his time pitching in Japan. If nothing else, you've got to like the confidence.
Apparently, the Rangers, Dodgers and Red Sox are the three clubs that have been scouting Otani, and the teenager has gone on record saying the Dodgers are the favorites to land him since they've been in on him the longest.
Obviously, Otani would start his career in the minors, something Darvish didn't have to worry about, but if what we've all heard is true, he might not be there for long. He's said to not quite have the command of Darvish at this time, but Darvish doesn't touch 99 on the radar gun either.
Since he's not on a Japanese club right now, there won't be a posting process like the Rangers had to pay in excess of $50 million to the Ham Fighters just for the right to negotiate with Darvish. But there are limitations. Teams are limited to a $2.9 million bonus pool to sign foreign free agents.
So hold your horses, Rangers fans. We might have another Japanese sensation here in the future, but for now you can watch this highlight video of the 18-year-old fireballer. And how 'bout that all-dirt infield! And in case you're wondering, 160 km/h is 99.4 mph.