Yu Darvish is arguably the most interesting name floating around trade circles as Major League Baseball’s non-waiver deadline inches closer and closer. Moreover, the very Texas Rangers he currently pitches for are one of the more interesting cases as said deadline approaches. The question that remains, of course, is this: are the Rangers going to sell? And if you’re not feeling confident enough to commit to a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer, ask yourselves this: should they?
That’s where it gets a little trickiera��though, not necessarily because of payroll flexibility. In four of the past five seasons, the Rangers have been firmly in the Top 10 in overall payroll. Looking at what’s on the books for next season, they are already committed to paying roughly $77 million between Cole Hamels, Shin-Soo Choo, AdriA?n BeltrA� and Elvis Andrus. Does Darvish, who will certainly command a deal in excess of $20 million per season this winter, fit into that picture?
That’s when we start to get ahead of ourselves.
Right now, the Texas Rangers are a disappointing though not lifeless 49-52. After Wednesday night’s drubbing at the hands of the Miami Marlins, their run differential stands at only plus-1. There is no division race to speak ofa��they’re currently 18 games back of the Houston Astros. There is a wild card race to speak of, howevera��one they find themselves just 4.5 games back of. That said, three teams are ahead of them in the battle for that spot while two of them, Tampa Bay and Seattle, seem like better bets at this point.
That’s just it: we don’t know. Even worse, there’s not a whole lot of time for Texas to figure it out. If they’re going to move Darvish before the non-waiver deadline hits, they have until 4:00 p.m. EST on Monday to do so.
Then there’s the question of what Texas gets in return.
Yu Darvish is a free agent when this season ends. He is a rental in the purest sense of the word, albeit a prize one. Darvish is not the Jaime GarcA�a of rentals, shall we say. Plus, he’s got a fairly interesting no-trade list, per Ken Rosenthal:
Yu Darvish’s 10-team no-trade list, per sources: BAL, BOS, CHC, CLE, COL, CWS, DET, OAK, PIT, TOR. Free to go to LAD, NYY, HOU, all others.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 26, 2017
Now that obviously doesn’t mean Darvish wouldn’t go to either of those 10 clubs. He’d just need to be consulted first before deciding whether or not he wants to waive his no-trade clause. So let’s talk about a few of those teams.
Of the current contenders, I can’t imagine Boston going after another arm. The Cubs could very well be interested now even after already adding Jose Quintana, or they can just attempt to sign Darvish in the offseason. This doesn’t help them right now, of course, but how much do the Cubs have left to offer (that Texas will take) at this point? I ask solely because of this report that suggests they will only part with the righty if they a�?are overwhelmed by an offer or their postseason hopes crash with another losing streak this week.a�?
You hear that, potential suitors? It ain’t going to be cheap. Add to this the fact that the Rangers have one of the weaker farm systems in baseball right now, and it’s understandable why they’d be tempted by the right deal.
Darvish would certainly bolster a Cleveland rotation that has been hit by injuries and inconsistency all season long. As for Colorado, I’m sorry. It doesn’t matter how good the Rockies are, top pitchers just aren’t going to want to pitch there.
Then there are the teams cruising towards the postseason who don’t find themselves on the no-trade lista��most notably the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers. The Astros, like Cleveland, could use another starter. Injuries have not been kind to that rotation this season. Speaking of injuries, what are the chances the Dodgers a�?panica�? and try to add Darvish partly because of Clayton Kershaw’s recent injury? Please read those actual quotation marks as air quotes, because let’s be real here: that wouldn’t be a panic move, it’d be a wise one.
But right now, the Rangers control everything. Their hand may be forced in the next couple of days, but they don’t have pull the trigger right this second. The idea of a rental is going to turn a couple of would-be suitors off, especially if it means overpaying for a shota��not a guaranteea��at a deep postseason run. Of all the teams that may genuinely consider making this move, I’d bet on the Dodgers. Otherwise, a controllable Sonny Gray seems like the obvious move for clubs looking to add another starter.
Then there’s Darvish himself. What does he bring? The short answer is plenty. The longer answer is a little trickier, however. His ERA and FIP (4.01 and 3.96, respectively) don’t paint the most flattering of pictures. His DRA on the other hand (2.95) certainly does. But his 26.2 percent strikeout rate is not only the lowest clip of his career, but the lowest since his rookie season. Five-plus percentage points lower than last season alone. That might be cause for concern, but on the bright side his velocity is fine and dandy despite undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015.
Yu Darvish is gooda��there’s no disputing that. The Dodgers would appear to be the team most likely to make a deal happen. It would take some convincing from the Cubs, though I imagine a�?Hey, we won the World Series last year and just reclaimed the lead in our divisiona�? isn’t the worst place to start.
Then again, it’s all up to Texas. But if they decide to hold on to Darvish, they better hope for the following:
- A playoff push.
- An extension in the offseason.
- Yes, both is an acceptable option.
Because keeping him only to miss the playoffs and fail in attempting to re-sign him is the worst-case scenario. One that this struggling Rangers ballclub needs no part of.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs