Yu Darvish -for obvious reasons- has become a hot topic as the offseason creeps towards spring training. Darvish has made it clear that he is hopeful and open to a return to the Dodgers. In a poll conducted by Dodgers Nation on twitter, 57% of over 6,000 fans polled said they would like to see Darvish return to the starting rotation. So what obstacles remain?
The Dodgers want to be able to fit Darvish into their payroll while remaining under their luxury tax. They would also presumably like to remain flexible for deals that they may need to make during the 2018 regular season. For Darvish to return to the Dodgers, they need to move a contract like Matt Kemp’s. If the Dodgers want to trade Kemp, they may need to include a decent prospect to incentivize the team absorbing the lofty contract.
There are quite a few Dodger fans who seem perplexed by Darvish’s value and impact on a roster. Over the course of his career, Darvish has been worth between a 3.5 and 4.7 wins per season. He’s projected by Steamer to be worth 3.6 in 2018. For perspective, Clayton Kershaw was worth 4.6 in 2017. Last season saw Clayton Richard, Bartolo Colon, Mike Pelfrey, and Ricky Nolasco make 20 or more starts in this league.
Capable starting pitching will always carry premium value. Darvish, by the numbers, is more than capable. Many other teams would like to pluck Darvish away from the Dodgers as a free agent. By clicking ahead to read more, you will see the most prominent threats around baseball to sign Yu Darvish.
The Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers are widely considered to be contenders after solidifying their lineup by adding Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain within the same 24-hour period. They spent much of late January being reported as ‘strongly’ in the mix for the 30-year old Japanese sensation. Money talks, and right now Milwaukee has plenty of it. Their current payroll sits at $91 million and in past years they have been known to push it toward the $105 million range. The Brewers finished 86-76 in 2017, and currently have a nice starting pitching corps that features Zach Davies, Chase Anderson, and Jimmy Nelson at some point; but no true ace. The Brewers could quickly become a dangerous player in the Darvish sweepstakes if they feel that they’re a player away from contention.
The Chicago Cubs
The Cubs starting rotation one through three should be classified as decent, but one through five they are not deep. Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, and Kyle Hendricks all had their blemishes in 2017. I don’t think anyone believes they will begin the season with Mike Montgomery and Tyler Chatwood throwing every fifth day. The Cubs have some talent and upside offensively, but really need to make a splash. They were linked to Darvish at the trade deadline before the Dodgers pulled off the trade with the Rangers, and that interest remains today.
The Cubs front office traveled to Dallas in December for negotiations, and even had to shoot down a rumor that a deal was imminent. When Chicago won the World Series in 2016, many spoke of a dynasty window just opening. Camelot has crumbled a bit, and to restore it the Cubs could sign a frontline starter. Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb are other names being mentioned in Chicagoland.
The New York Yankees
The Yankees are in a position very similar to the Dodgers. If a vaudeville act were taking place in the Bronx, Jacoby Ellsbury would be playing the part of Matt Kemp in the Los Angeles act. The Yankees have $15 million remaining before they hit the luxury tax threshold. This would allow them to sign a couple of nice role players, but not a Darvish unless they move some salary. Ellsbury seems to be the most sensible candidate, but they would need to provide a reason for a team to make a trade for him. In the mind of many, the Yankees have had a huge offseason. In reality, the Yankees have added just Giancarlo Stanton to what was already a really nice young core. Darvish would put the finishing touches on the Yankees resuming their role as the evil empire once again.
The Minnesota Twins
The upstart Twins had a very commendable season in 2017, finishing 85-77. Minnesota has a scrappy lineup of both veterans and youth core pieces alike. For the Twins to close the gap in the American League Central, they could use an ace that allows every pitcher to slide back one day. It would also allow them to move little-known Aaron Siegers or Adalberto Mejia out of the rotation entirely.
Minnesota’s interest in Darvish is definitely genuine. Their general manager Thad Levine has a history with Darvish dating back to their days in Texas together, where Levine was assistant general manager. The Twins have been linked to Darvish since the holiday season, when manager Paul Molitor said this:
“We want to make sure that the player and his team understand that we want to be part of discussions and we have targeted him as somebody we have tremendous interest in,” Molitor said. “Where that’s going to go, where the market’s going to go, what we’re able to do, how far other teams are willing to go, you know, things you can’t control.”
The Twins are considered a small to mid-market franchise. Their biggest free agent contract on record was Ervin Santana (four-years, $55 million). One caveat that makes them a sneaky candidate in the Darvish race is Joe Mauer’s $184-million contract expiring after the upcoming season. Are the Twins being cautious or calculated? Absorbing Molitor’s quote makes it seem like they’re going to be patient to see what kind of true market develops for Darvish.
The Texas Rangers
Familiarity always breeds contempt. The Rangers were of course the organization who brought Darvish to Major League Baseball in 2012. Darvish is just like you and I. He’s established relationships within that organization that provided comfort and will last a lifetime. Places like that are hard to leave, and easy to return to.
Rangers beat writer T.R. Sullivan recently indicated that Darvish would prefer a return to Arlington:
It seems obvious — reading all the signs — that Darvish wants to return to the Rangers. The problem is the Rangers keep saying that it is “unlikely” that they’ll be active at the top of the free-agent pitching market.
The Rangers are listed last here for a reason, and are probably a long-shot to be the team that signs the right-hander. General manager Jon Daniels recently said that the team would like to add rotation depth, but if he had to estimate a Yu reunion, he doesn’t see it happening.
The Mystery Team
Often it seems when a player seems destined to a, b, or c; someone jumps from obscurity to land the big tuna in their boat. Fluidity and the domino-effect in baseball are so very real. If the Boston Red Sox shift their attention from a J.D. Martinez, who is to say they couldn’t easily make a sales pitch of their own? The Cleveland Indians were interested in Darvish at the July 2017 trade deadline. Has anything really changed for the Indians since that time to decrease their interest? The Anaheim Angels have shown a surprising willingness to spend money to compete during the remaining Mike Trout years. Adding Yu Darvish to improve a makeshift rotation could figure to give them a chance to give Trout a fighting chance at deep October baseball.
And then there’s Philadelphia.
#Phillies checking in with Darvish and most of high-profile free agents, sources tell The Athletic. Idea is to assess respective markets to see if deal makes sense. Unlikely Phils would be high bidder, but if player fell into their range – preferably short-term – they might jump.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 24, 2018
Darvish will inevitably find his new home within the next two months, and that team will be a very lucky organization. When you have an arm with the upside of Darvish who has finished in the top ten in the Cy Young voting multiple times and been an All-Star four times, you are adding a valuable asset. Or perhaps you’re retaining one.
Some might feel that Yu Darvish is a Dodger until he’s not. Will someone swoop in and change that sentiment? The answer awaits us very soon.
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