I was browsing on MLB Fantasy Prospects when I stumbled upon this bit by MLBFP Writer Stephen Sheridan. Apparently, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (via Rotoworld), the Giants are one of the many teams interested in the services of Japanese left-handed pitcher Hisanori Takahashi of the Yomiuri Giants.
What do I know about Takahashi? Not a lot. The only thing I really know about him is that I watched him give up a single to Craig Brazell of the Hanshin Tigers on YouTube.
The plus side of Takahashi is that he's had a solid career statistically for the Giants (the Japanese ones of course). Last season, he had a 10-6 record for the Giants along with a 2.94 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 144 IP. Of course, his K/9 rate at 4.66 is nothing special, probably disparaging considering it was in the Nippon Professional Baseball league, but overall, the numbers are promising, especially the sub-three ERA.
On the other end, Takahashi isn't exactly young. He's currently 34-years-old, which is a big difference from Kei Igawa and Daisuke Matsuzaka, who broke into the Major Leagues under 30. Thus, if the Giants do want to take a waiver on Takahashi, chances are he would be used just to keep the fifth spot warm for Madison Bumgarner.
Furthermore, if any team is going to sign him, be it the Giants or somebody else, he most likely will only be getting a one-year deal. At 34-years-old, anything beyond one or two years is particularly risky, especially considering that Takahashi is regressing (though, if you look at his stats, he's never been a high-strikeout pitcher over his career).
So, should the Giants invest in this guy? If I were Brian Sabean, (and believe me, there are some people who really wish they were), I would probably pass on Takahashi. He's just too old, and the struggles of Igawa and Matsuzaka as starting pitchers doesn't bode well for a 34-year-old who is DEMANDING to be a starting pitcher at the MLB level. I'm not saying the struggles of Igawa or Matsuzaka are a cultural thing (Hideo Nomo proved to be DECENT as a starting pitcher), but if two younger, higher-ceiling Japanese pitchers have struggled in their times as starting pitchers in the Major Leagues, I'm not inclined to believe that an on-the-decline lefty is going to break the mold.
That being said, this Takahashi talk I find very interesting (especially from a Giants fan's perspective) mainly because it opens up talk about another pitcher from Japan:
You know who I'm talking about: Yu Darvish.
Now, I know Yu Darvish has stated that he does not want to play in America. I know he's an icon there, and I know he's one of the most infamous Japanese athletes ever because of his tendency to get Japanese pop stars pregnant. (Common in our society, as evidenced by Tom Brady, but apparently a "no-no" in Japanese culture...who knew?)
Yet I desperately want to see Darvish pitch in the Majors. If you watched any of the WBC last year, you'll know that his stuff is flat out nasty. In many ways, if people thought "Dice-K" was great in those last two World Baseball Classics, they really haven't seen anything yet.
Darvish is an incredible strikeout artist, as evidenced by his 210 and 208 strikeouts in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Granted, his strikeout numbers went down to 167 strikeouts in 182 innings pitched in 2009, but that probably was to be expected after shouldering a pretty hefty work load in Japan's second-straight WBC championship run prior to the 2009 Japanese season.
And the best part about Darvish? He's still really, really young. He's only 23-years-old! Thus, Darvish has the luxury of still developing as a pitcher should he come to America in the next couple of years. (It would be similar to what we're seeing the Red Sox do with Junichi Tazawa, though Darvish is far more polished than Tazawa at this point.)
So Darvish would be a far cry from Igawa and Matsuzaka, who were bound to decline being in their late-20's.
Anyways, can this interest by Sabean and the Giants in Takahashi transition to anything in terms of the Giants landing Darvish in the near future? Probably not. For all I know, I'm just shooting in the dark, trying to start something that most likely won't come to fruition (I'd say the chances as of now are less than two percent).
However, even though Giants fans will want to pass on Takahashi this off-season, they should be paying attention to whether or not Darvish decides to change his mind in terms of coming to America to pitch.
For Darvish in Black and Orange, pitching along with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner in the starting rotation, would be worth whatever the exorbitant price should be.