By Marshall Garvey
As January progresses, Yu Darvish’s free agency bid has turned into a veritable sweepstakes. It’s now reported that a total of six teams are interested in signing him, the Dodgers not surprisingly among them. His options are far-ranging and eclectic, from the small-market Minnesota Twins eyeing him as their biggest free agent signing since Jack Morris in 1991, to the strange rumors that his October nemesis Houston was courting him.
Personally, I am of the opinion that the Dodgers are better off letting Darvish walk, a position I’ve held firmly since his disastrous effort in game seven of the World Series. I do acknowledge that my opinion was initially born out of a frustrated hot take from a heartbreaking loss. It didn’t help that he turned in such a listless performance on a night where Dodger pitching legends Sandy Koufax and Don Newcombe threw out the first pitch. Even worse was his postgame quote that seemed to indicate downright ambivalence about continuing as a major league pitcher. Granted, my original byline that Darvish is to Los Angeles what Grady Little is to Boston was a bit of an overreaction!
Do you want Yu Darvish back in the Dodgers Pitching Rotation this upcoming season?
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) January 15, 2018
His catastrophic World Series aside, it’s not like re-signing Darvish isn’t practical. He’s still a top pitcher in his prime, did excellent in the regular season and the first two rounds of the postseason, and was immensely liked by his teammates in Los Angeles. On the storyline side, he obviously now has a mission to redeem himself in the World Series, and what better place to do that than with a team that’s aiming to be the next 2015 Royals?
Yet in the the event the front office chooses not to give Yu a chance at October redemption (and more), who else can they turn to to fill out the 3rd/4th spot in the rotation? Here are four options Friedman, Zaidi and company should strongly consider.
This makes sense on multiple levels. Archer is in his prime at 29, has two All-Star selections and a World Baseball Classic title (clinched at Dodger Stadium no less), and is an eminently cool person as evidenced by his Twitter account. Best of all, he’s the ace for Andrew Friedman’s former team, which could make agreeing to a reasonable trade easier. His stats in 2016 and 2017 weren’t the most eye-popping, but I feel they bely his talent. Transplant him from a middling small market team to a big budget championship contender, let him tune up with Rick Honeycutt, and Archer would be a brilliant addition to a rotation that’s already terrifying with Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Alex Wood.
This is the best “sleeper” option on the market. With Darvish, Gerrit Cole and Jake Arietta grabbing the hot stove headlines this offseason, little has been said about Lynn, who is available via free agency. And it’s a shame he hasn’t gotten the attention he deserves, as his regular season line for St. Louis has been good to outstanding every season since 2012, with the exception for 2016, which he missed due to Tommy John surgery.
The only drawback I can conjure here is that he’s on the Cardinals, our second biggest rival after San Francisco, and helped bury Los Angeles in those heartbreaking 2013 and 2014 playoff matchups. From that perspective, I think the sight of Michael Wacha (or Matt Carpenter, for that matter) in a Dodgers uniform would be far more unsettling. I don’t think anyone would object to having someone as unsung yet talented as Lynn, perhaps fittingly tucked away as our 4th starter. Even in a much bigger market, he’d likely still be a “secret weapon”, and a damn good one for a team seeking to get that last win in October.
Another Tampa Bay pitcher. Unlike Archer, Cobb would come via free agency, but is still an enticing option. He’s posted sub-3.00 ERA in his best seasons (2013 and 2014, the former season capped off with a victory in the AL Wild Card Game), and like Archer it’s easy to envision him reaching his full potential under Honeycutt’s tutelage.
On paper, Arrieta would be my #1 choice. To start, who can forget his Cy Young Award second half of 2015, when he suddenly morphed into a hybrid of Bob Gibson and Warren Spahn? Granted, he hasn’t been quite on that level since then, but he’s still a tenacious and reliable ace when needed. Not to mention, he’s a bona fide stud in the playoffs, with crucial road victories in games two and six of the 2016 World Series, and a vintage performance against the Dodgers in the 2017 NLCS to prevent the Cubs from being swept.
The only drawback here is obvious: He’s going to ask for too much money. After passing up on Giancarlo Stanton (a trade I still believe the Dodgers should have gone for) to stay under the luxury tax, it admittedly wouldn’t make sense to overpay for Arrieta’s services. If he somehow asks for a more reasonable amount, Arrieta would be a great addition. But that’s not a scenario the front office should bank on.
If the Dodgers don’t re-sign Darvish, which of the aforementioned four do you think would be the best option? Let us know in the comments below!