If Yu Darvish comes to the U.S., Nationals might want to proceed with caution

Reports out of Japan began buzzing yesterday that Yu Darvish - the 25-year-old pitcher who is on track to be the next big thing out of the country - will ask the Nippon-Ham Fighters to post him for a contract in the major leagues. Darvish denied those reports on his Twitter account, though, and said he will share his decision with fans on Twitter when he does choose what to do.

(At least, that’s what translations of his tweet say. I’m relying on Google Translate here, as many other people probably are.)

If Darvish does decide to go through the posting process, though, he’ll immediately become one of the hot commodities in the pitching market this offseason. The Nationals have kept tabs on Darvish, and they figure to be involved in trying to land him if he does decide to head to the U.S. this winter. Whether that’s the best use of their money, though, remains to be seen.

Remember that if Darvish decides to come to the U.S., teams will have to bid a posting fee for a chance to negotiate with the 25-year-old. The Red Sox spent more than $51 million to secure negotiating rights with Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2006, and paid him another $52 million over six years. But that deal has produced just one 200-inning season, one great year (2008) and three disappointing campaigns to follow.

By many accounts, Darvish is better than Matsuzaka was when he came to the U.S., and he could turn out to be a front-line pitcher in the majors. But Japanese pitchers haven’t exactly delivered on their curiosity-driven hype when they came to the U.S. And when the Reds paid more than $30 million for Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman before the 2010 season, it turns out they got a more expensive (although probably more impressive) version of Henry Rodriguez. Even Chien-Ming Wang has a career 4.15 ERA - respectable, but not scintillating.

On their own, the Nationals have learned about the dangers of overpaying for foreign pitchers (see Yunesky Maya). Darvish is an impressive talent, but he’ll also cost more than $100 million, once a posting fee and a contract come into play. I’ve heard from a few people saying the Nationals don’t need to go after C.J. Wilson this winter; he’d be a more proven commodity than Darvish, and he’d probably come cheaper. The Brewers might also look to move Zack Greinke before his free agent year, and it’s possible the right-hander would see the Nationals in a different light than he did last winter.

The reality is this: Adjusting to the major leagues is hard, and becoming a dominant pitcher in the major leagues is even harder. Darvish could turn out to be the Japanese pitcher who finally bridges the gap between dominance in the Far East and dominance in the U.S. But if the Nationals are intent on adding another top-end pitcher to their rotation this winter, they could find they have more sensible options than Darvish.