Mac Engel

Dealing Yu was a bust move for a Rangers GM who didn’t go far enough

The pitcher acquired from Japan to give the Texas Rangers a World Series-caliber hammer turned into the type of tease that shreds analytics enthusiasts everywhere.

Statistically speaking, Yu Darvish was a celebrity ace the Rangers should have buried in money to retain.

To the naked eye, he was an overrated, fragile-minded talent who did not want to be great; the team needed to move him, even if the haul in return was nothing more than a bucket of batting practice baseballs.

It was time to move on from the Yu experiment.

The Rangers’ mantra is “Don’t ever, ever quit,” but that is exactly what the team did Monday afternoon. Presently constructed, this team was going nowhere with Yu Darvish.

Just minutes before the 2017 MLB trade deadline expired, Rangers’ GM Jon Daniels wisely quit on this bust of a season and dealt his most valued commodity to the Los Angeles Dodgers in return for three prospects you don’t know.

Moving Yu concludes an era for the organization that began after the 2011 World Series, an era that saw them spend hundreds of millions of dollars that did not include a trip to the American League Championship Series.

Give him this: JD has been unafraid to go for it in recent years, and at least on Monday he could admit to himself and his bosses that he built a loser. As essential as dealing Yu was, JD didn’t go far enough.

Dealing catcher Jonathan Lucroy, reliever Jeremy Jeffress and Yu brought in a total of five prospects when this franchise needs closer to 10.

And on the biggest trade JD got crushed on a deal he had no choice but make. He acquired three prospects from the Dodgers that are not ranked as the top three in their system in return for an All-Star pitcher who was never going to re-sign with the Rangers.

The team simply waited too long on Darvish and lost any real leverage for the type of high-level prospects the Dodgers possess, but did not have to surrender in order to complete the trade.

Every other club knew the Rangers were desperate to trade Darvish, and each suitor acted accordingly.

I asked JD if moving Darvish was a priority because the team did not think they would be able to re-sign him, to which he said no. When the Rangers didn’t make a real offer on Darvish in the offseason, the team knew that Yu was likely going to leave as a free agent.

He should have been traded in the offseason, when his value was at its peak.

I also asked JD if he thought signing Yu, which came with a total price tag of $111 million, was worth it.

“I do,” he said. “He was outstanding. He produced at an extremely high level when he was here.”

No he didn’t. Yu was very good, and at times was fun to watch strike out the side. While he was often the victim of an offense that did not give him enough run support, too often when it came down to big-on-big, Yu shrunk.

Mentally, something is simply missing. Yu may just be a player who is quite content being quite good; God knows being a good MLB pitcher can be quite lucrative.

The Dodgers will soon find this out, although pitching behind Clayton Kershaw and in cavernous Dodger Stadium should help.

More than anything else Yu Darvish’s greatest baseball sin was that he was a tease; there is more in this tremendously talented pitcher than he showed. Or maybe he showed it in Japan and by the time he arrived in Texas it was gone.

The Yu the Rangers enjoyed was a high-strikeout pitcher who threw more than 200 innings in one season, never reached the seventh inning in either postseason start, both losses, missed all of the 2015 season to Tommy John surgery and was on the disabled list four times.

And this season, in the final year of his contract and on a team that desperately needed him to carry them in his starts, he has a 4.01 ERA with a 6-9 record.

Now he’s gone. Do not believe any speculation that suggests Yu will return to the Rangers when he becomes a free agent this winter. The Dodgers, or a similar West Coast team, is his perfect destination: a cozy market that will care less than ours should he not deliver.

He’s not suited for the responsibility and headaches that come with playing in a Boston or a New York.

Monday’s Rangers trade-deadline deals did not include enough moves to bring their farm system back to life, but at least it’s a start. At least the team is no longer fooling themselves into believing they were good enough to make a run at the wild card, and possibly win a few playoff games, let alone a postseason series.

Dumping Lucroy, Jeffress and Yu were merely first steps, and at least acknowledgment that the Yu experiment was better on the spreadsheet than on the field.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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