The Texas Rangers saluted right-hander Yu Darvish on Sunday with a full-page ad in the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper that appeared across Japan, including in Darvish’s hometown.
It was a nice touch by the Rangers, who signed him in 2012 and traded him Monday to the Los Angeles Dodgers with no assurances that he would re-sign as a free agent in the off-season.
But maybe the Rangers greased that wheel just a bit with the ad. It can’t hurt, right?
Despite general manager Jon Daniels giving a tepid response when asked about the Rangers’ interest in re-signing the four-time All-Star, the Rangers want to do it and believe they have the chance to do so.
Darvish said, sure, he’s re-sign, as long as the Rangers make a competitive offer.
Maybe, just maybe, this ad will shave a million or two off the final price tag.
Or maybe not.
Or maybe they are hoping Shohei Otani sees the ad and thinks, “Gee, what a great organization. I want to pitch for them.”
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 4-1 victory Saturday over the Minnesota Twins.
1. Quick: When was the last time Cole Hamels threw a complete game?
Every Rangers fan should know that answer.
It came Oct. 4, 2015, when he allowed a two-run homer to Albert Pujols in the first inning and then only one more hit the rest of the way as the Rangers beat the Anaheim Angels to clinch the American League West.
He hadn’t had another until shoving for nine innings against the Twins. In listening to him, he expects more to be in his future.
Hamels worked quickly and efficiently, needing only 15 pitches to cover the first six outs despite allowing a lead-off single in the first. He was at 36 pitches after four. He threw 11 in the ninth to finish at 96, the fewest in a complete game in his career.
(Martin Perez threw 40 pitches Friday in the first and exited with 93 pitches in 4 2/3 innings. Of all the pitchers who needed to be paying particularly close attention to Hamels, it was Perez.)
So, why the sudden turnaround for Hamels, who had struggled to some degree at some point in his past three starts? He has rediscovered the feel for his changeup.
That’s why he sounded so confident about the rest of the season, saying he felt Saturday like he did when he believes he was at his best from 2011 to 2014. He said the rebirth of his changeup will show up in scouting reports, but it will also make his fastball better.
The changeup is his bread-and-butter pitch. It’s what his career and mega-contract were built upon.
“I really to think that being able to establish my changeup ... I really haven’t been able to do for a year and a half, two years since I got here,” Hamels said. “The only reason I got to the big leagues was my changeup.”
He believes he has it back and can get back to being the front-line pitcher he believes he is.
2. Nick Martinez gets the ball Sunday as the Rangers try to win this four-game series. He will have to outpitch Twins young stud Jose Berrios, who is pitching well in the first extended big-league action of his career.
Just as A.J. Griffin did Thursday night, Martinez has a chance to make a statement for 2018. Griffin was so good in the opener that he has earned another start Wednesday against the New York Mets.
Martinez might not get another chance after Sunday even if he delivers as Griffin did. Tyson Ross is on the mend from a blister, and the right-hander allowed one run on four hits over seven innings for Double A Frisco in a second rehab start.
Ross walked two and struck out eight. He looks ready to return to the Rangers’ rotation, and the soonest that could happen is Sunday at Houston.
Martinez, who turned 27 on Saturday, has been much better this season than in 2016 wherever he’s pitched. Catcher Brett Nicholas said that Martinez had far and away been the best starter at Triple A Round Rock before he was recalled Monday.
It seems as if Martinez has had a jolt of confidence and is pitching smarter. He’s not getting away from what works, and he has always thrown inside.
If the Rangers fall out of the playoff race (Remember: They have no doubts that they are still in contention), Martinez should be in line for more time on the mound.
Maybe it would be out of the bullpen. Maybe it would be in some form of a six-man rotation. At that point, the Rangers would need to see him pitch as they look toward 2018.
3. By the look of things, the Rangers aren’t being shy about how they plan to proceed if Otani is posted in the off-season by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
The Rangers made their second trade in three weeks for international slot money, sending Brallan Perez to the Baltimore Orioles for $500,000. That’s not an insignificant amount when trying to recapture the allowed 75 percent of the $4.75 million pool the Rangers had to open the 2017-18 international signing period.
Of course, there are no guarantees that Otani will be posted or would sign with the Rangers, so that Perez money and the international cash last month from the Chicago White Sox for Yeyson Yrizarri might go to a kid from the Dominican Republic who didn’t sign July 2 or to a Cuban who has yet to establish residency in another country.
Now that that’s out of the way, of course the Rangers are adding money for Otani. They have three spots to fill, four of they don’t pick up the very affordable club option for Martin Perez.
If Darvish indicates that the Rangers are out for his services, they could move on Otani. They might have to move on him without knowing Darvish’s intentions.
That would then seem to leave open the possibility of the Rangers signing both players in the off-season, and there are two schools of thought to it from our relocated friends in the Japanese media:
1. Otani would be interested in playing with Darvish, who has been a mentor to and idol of Otani. How better to learn the big-league ropes than from the pitcher he admires most.
2. While he idolizes Darvish, Otani wants to be the man wherever he goes and doesn’t want to share the spotlight with another countryman. The Rangers have heard that from their people in Japan.
If Otani is posted and if the Rangers were to be involved and if he wanted to sign with him, the process would be tricky. The international signing rules in the CBA aren’t easy to maneuver around, and it might look bad if the Rangers signed him for a few million and then decided to quickly give him a lucrative long-term deal.
It would appear as if there were under-the-table dealings. Other teams might not be pleased with the Rangers’ international tactics.
The thing is, all teams will be trying to find a loophole in the system, and they’re going to find one. Just wait.
In the meantime, don’t be surprised if the Rangers go hunting from some more international money to spend.