Yu Darvish can probably scratch the Houston Astros off his list of suitors.
The Astros, the reigning world champs, added to their deep starting rotation Sunday by acquiring right-hander Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Texas Rangers figure to see him a least a couple times in 2018 over the 19 games the American League West rivals will play.
The Rangers, meanwhile, are stuck in neutral. They haven’t made a significant acquisition since the December trade for Matt Moore to finish off the starting rotation. That’s how they see the rotation, anyway, barring something dramatic happening with the free-agent market.
That market continues to be flooded by the elite players, as teams wait them out to see if their salary demands fall. Darvish is on that list, and his list of teams, according to a source late last week and presuming the Astros are out, includes the Rangers, Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, and, the latest entry, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The same source that revealed the teams still in on Darvish said that the Dodgers, who acquired him from the Rangers at the trade deadline and saw him fall apart in the World Series, met with the right-hander last week.
Darvish has again been fairly transparent on Twitter, saying there were more than five teams involved after the Star-Telegram reported his list sans Dodgers. He also tweeted that, yes, the Yankees offered him a contract, but, no, it wasn’t the seven-year, $160 million pact reported by Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay.
That would have averaged out to $22.86 million a season, hardly chump change. In a story in Sports Illustrated, Jay Jaffe writes that Darvish’s career numbers suggest he’s worth as much as $30 million a season.
That’s way, way out of the Rangers’ alleged range. Of course, they can afford $25 million-plus. Owner Ray Davis said last spring that he was willing to go to market value for a player, and the writers in the room all assumed he meant Darvish.
Darvish, the source said, isn’t sweating the lengthy free-agent process, meaning he’s not at a point where he’s starting to consider taking less money.
But what about fewer years?
While Daniels has a weakness for pitchers coming off injuries or lousy seasons, he has also shown the past two off-seasons to be crafty with big-name free agents still lingering on the market.
He swooped in and got Ian Desmond on the cheap after spring training started in 2016 and Mike Napoli just before camp started in 2017. Each free agent signed a one-year deal.
Darvish isn’t going to sign a one-year deal, but would he settle for three with an option if it meant playing for the Rangers? How about an opt-out clause after two seasons? In turn, the Rangers could give him, say, $23 million to $25 million a season.
That’s a lot of money, obviously, but paying it all before Darvish gets too old might reduce the risk the Rangers see in going to five or six years. Darvish stays at his adopted home and gets another crack at free agency before the sun sets on his career.
The Rangers’ expectation is that a team is going to money-whip Darvish. That seems to be Darvish’s expectation, too, so don’t count on the scenario above.
The Rangers, though, are still checking in on the top remaining players to see where the money stands. It’s still standing tall, but on the off-chance that Darvish blinks, the Rangers want to be in a position to make a respectable, and possibly creative, offer.