Author's note: It wasn't until I saw my translation quoted on mlbtraderumors.com that I noticed that I mis-translated Darvish's metaphor. He said that he was "planning on climbing the staircase" not the "ladder". Correct meaning, wrong word. It's been fixed.
Just as soon as I publish my latest "don't expect Yu Darvish in MLB any time soon" article, this news breaks.
Last Friday, Nikkan Sports ran a story saying that Darvish could make his way to the Majors via the posting system as early as this offseaon. This coincided with the Yankees sending Japan area scout Shoichi Kida to watch Darvish's Saturday start against the Marines. I dismissed the article as speculation because it didn't include a quote from a named source. The Yankees watching Darvish isn't exactly news any more. They employ a full-time scout in Japan and sent Gene Michael to watch him back in 2008.
Then, in a story published on March 29th, Sponichi managed to get a couple quotes from Darvish himself. On being scouted: "evaluation? that's for others to decide." In response to a question about moving to MLB in the future: "well, I'm planning on climbing the staircase, step by step."
Sponichi is usually pretty good with this kind of stuff: they had Junichi Tazawa going to the Red Sox long before anyone else, and mostly stayed out of the Hideki Matsui nonsense last year. And nothing in that quote suggests a posting is on the offing in the near future, and this hasn't shown up in any of the other sports dailies. But it does seemingly represent a softening of his stance towards staying in Japan, and given Darvish's stature, that's newsworthy enough for this site.
Sponichi also points out that the soonest Darvish will become eligible for international free agency would be some time during the 2014 season. To me, it doesn't make sense for Nippon Ham to post Darvish until it becomes clear that they're going to lose him, and their contractual control over his services is about to expire. I suppose it might be possible to leverage domestic, NPB-only free agency into a posting, but no one has tried that yet.
By the way, Kida saw a strong outing by Darvish, in which he struck out 11 over six innings of work. He got into trouble in thei first, but he had his good slider and made Saburo look like a fool in a basees-loaded situation in the first inning. Velocity chart here.