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Rangers win bidding rights for Japan ace

Team Japan starting pitcher Yu Darvish pitches against Team Korea during Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic in San Diego
Team Japan starting pitcher Yu Darvish pitches against Team Korea during Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic in San Diego

(Reuters) - The Texas Rangers have won the rights to negotiate exclusively with Japanese pitching ace Yu Darvish after offering what may be the sport's richest ever posting fee, Major League Baseball announced in a statement on Monday.

Financial terms of the bid were not disclosed but reports said it was in excess of the $51 million paid by the Boston Red Sox to negotiate with Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2006.

The Rangers now have 30 days to sign the latest Japanese sensation on a Major or Minor League contract.

"We look forward to beginning the next step of this process in the very near future with Mr Darvish and his representatives, Arn Tellem and Don Nomura," The Rangers said in a statement.

"Our organization has scouted Mr Darvish for the last several years and has been very impressed with his abilities and accomplishments. We believe he would be a great addition to the Texas Rangers pitching staff."

The 25-year-old right-hander has spent his entire professional career with the Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball Pacific League and is a strikeout specialist, boasting a 96 mph fastball.

Considered the best pitcher in Japanese baseball, the two-times Pacific League most valuable player has a 93-38 career record with a 1.99 earned run average over seven seasons.

He helped the Fighters win the 2006 Japan Series and has represented Japan in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Born to an Iranian father and Japanese mother, the 6ft-5in (1.96m) starter has never had a losing season and enjoys an overall winning percentage of .710.

The American League champions and Hokkaido-based team now have the task of thrashing out the terms of a playing contract with no guarantee the Rangers will be successful in procuring Darvish despite winning the bidding process.

The Rangers, who have lost the last two World Series, are reported to have beat out rival bids from the Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago Cubs.

"We were pleased to learn that the Texas Rangers were the high-bidders for Yu Darvish," Tellem said in a statement.

"The Rangers are an extraordinary franchise in an exceptional city with equally exceptional fans. Yu is honored to be prized so highly and recognized as a once-in-a-generation pitcher. We look forward to getting negotiations underway."

(Editing by John O'Brien)