The big splash isn’t coming, or so general manager Jon Daniels has warned.
Almost certainly not at these winter meetings, which officially opened Monday. And likely not this off-season.
It’s possible later, like as spring training approaches, if a big-money free agent gets antsy and becomes a not-as-big-money free agent. It’s also possible that the Rangers attempt to resurrect Walter Johnson or Cy Young.
Maybe Yu Darvish becomes one of those free agents whose price tag keeps getting marked down. Or maybe, just maybe, the Rangers decide that the best way for them to contend in 2018 and beyond is to reunite with the pitcher they traded away July 31.
Darvish is the top pitcher on the market, as agent Joel Wolfe billed him. He’s feeling good and confident that 2018 will be the best season of his career, and motivated to be at his best so that he can return to the World Series and crush it rather than get crushed.
A deal for Darvish makes a lot of sense, even if the Rangers going cheap doesn’t and never does except for that one time when they were, well, bankrupt.
They are not now, despite a decline in total attendance from 2016 to 2017, the purchase of two Class A teams and that big hole across the street from Globe Life Park that by 2020 will be Globe Life Field.
To hear Wolfe talk, all the Rangers need to do is make a reasonably competitive offer and Darvish will kiss his wife and kids and drive over from their Dallas home to sign the contract.
“They love Dallas,” said Wolfe, who just found a home for another client, Giancarlo Stanton. “That’s the first place that they made home. They moved back to Dallas because they have a home and friends. They feel very comfortable.”
The Rangers had less money to offer Darvish at dinnertime Monday after agreeing around lunchtime to sign reliever Chris Martin, the former Arlington High School star, to a two-year deal worth $4 million following two successful seasons in Japan for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
That’s the same team that posted Shohei Ohtani, so the Rangers got a hard-throwing Fighters righty after all.
Once all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed, Martin will join Tony Barnette, who started in Japan before the Rangers signed him in December 2015, in the bullpen along with fellow righty Keone Kela and left-handers Jake Diekman and Alex Claudio.
Matt Bush would figure to stay in the bullpen with the addition of Darvish or the acquisition of another proven starter.
Darvish, despite all the complaints that he isn’t an ace and the suspicions that he tips his pitches, has elite talent. He proved that he was healthy in 2017, his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, and saw the average velocity on his fastball peak at a career-high.
He wants to go to a winner, Wolfe said, and wants to go to a place with quality people in place. There isn’t anything that with the Rangers that is preventing Darvish from wanting to return, though Wolfe said that Darvish might not like the idea of a six-man or five-plus-one starting rotation.
Is anything keeping the Rangers from pursuing Darvish, setting aside the apparent lack of money?
“Relationship-wise, it’s very good,” Daniels said. “A number of us are still in touch with him, have maintained contact. For years it’s been a really good relationship. ...
“There are no other factors other than the traditional free agent decision points.”
Money, Daniels said, is a big part of it, and the Rangers have been stingy so far.
They have spent $16.5 million this off-season on two starters (Doug Fister, Mike Minor) and two relievers (Barnette, Martin). They might try to bag a center fielder who plays better defense than Delino DeShields and a catcher with more experience than Brett Nicholas, Juan Centeno and Jose Trevino.
That won’t break the budget.
The Rangers need another starter and another reliever, preferably a proven veteran. Darvish and, say, Steve Cishek might put the Rangers over their projected budget, but ownership has a long, long history of approving deals that will expand their payroll by a few million.
Daniels conceded that the Rangers still have enough money to give out a bigger contract.
“Potentially,” he said.
Putting the money aside, adding Darvish makes too much sense. Not putting the money aside, adding Darvish makes too much sense.
Wolfe is hoping the market takes shape this week, and said the Rangers will “always” be a team whose money Darvish would happily take.
“Yu-san is very eager to find out where he’s going to be playing next year,” Wolfe said. “We have a great deal of interest, as we should. He is, we believe, the best starting pitcher on the market or available in any capacity. We’re starting to consider options, and hopefully this will be a busy week.”