ARLINGTON Japanese pitching ace Yu Darvish has signed a six-year contract to play for the American League Champion Texas Rangers, the team announced late Wednesday afternoon.

Whether Darvish would come to Texas has been a hot topic of conversation around Dallas-Fort Worth for the last month since the Rangers paid $51.7 million for the exclusive right to negotiate with the 25-year-old pitcher. The deadline to reach an agreement was Wednesday.

The formal announcement of the deal is expected at Rangers Ballpark during a news conference at 5:15 p.m. Darvish will not be in attendance; he is expected to travel to Texas later this week, the team said.

Darvish, a right-hander, is considered to be Japan's top pitcher, playing the last seven years for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan's Pacific League. The Ham Fighters will get the Rangers' $51.7 million down payment.

The 6'-5 Darvish is 25 years old and has a record in Japan of 93 wins and 38 losses with a 1.99 earned run average.

He began his career as an 18-year-old rookie, and follows the lead of several other Japanese players who came to America to play in Major League Baseball, including Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki, Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka, and a couple of Ranger relief pitchers Yoshinori Tateyama and Koji Uehara.

Players who have made the jump from professional baseball in Japan to the United States have done so with mixed results, but all indications are that Darvish will flourish.

His resume in Japan is certainly impressive. Among his best accomplishments: Five straight seasons with a sub-2.00 ERA, becoming the first pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball (established in 1950) to do so.

He has twice won the league's MVP award, becoming the 10th pitcher in league history to win that award multiple times.

Darvish made 28 starts in 2011 and never hurled fewer than seven innings, collecting career bests in ERA (1.44), wins (18), strikeouts (276), innings pitched (232), and shutouts (6).

But will his considerable skills translate to Major League Baseball? That's a question that will be answered over the next six years.

Darvish joins a Rangers rotation that already includes five starters: Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando and former closer Neftali Feliz. editor Walt Zwirko and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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