At last check, there were five (or six!) teams still in on top free agent starter Yu Darvish, but the Astros have since traded for Gerrit Cole, taking them out of the mix, and chopping things down to four (or five) teams.
And today, we might be able to cut that down to just three (or four) teams.
Jon Daniels said adding another front line starting pitcher is not likely this winter
— TR Sullivan (@Sullivan_Ranger) January 16, 2018
Jon Daniels again says it's unlikely #Rangers add any top free agents. Says this isn't an all-in year. Expects to contend, but understands need for some players to realize their potential.
— Jeff Wilson (@JeffWilson_FWST) January 16, 2018
The Rangers have long been considered a tough fit for Darvish financially, as they have repeatedly indicated that they will not be spending big this winter. But because of Darvish’s long-standing relationship with the organization and Daniels, it felt like if the money were close, Darvish would return to the Rangers.
Daniels’ comments do not explicitly rule out a Darvish reunion, of course, but at this time of the year, when a GM is saying that a particular type of move is “not likely,” that’s usually not a negotiating tactic. Instead, it’s an attempt at candor with the fans.
If the Rangers are out on Darvish, he’d be left choosing from among the Cubs, Twins, and Yankees as the primarily-rumored clubs (the last of which would be able to pull it off only if they can move some other salary AND get Darvish on the cheap). The Dodgers would be that rumored fourth team, but they are also looking to stay under the luxury tax cap, and might require another Matt Kemp trade and/or a Darvish bargain to pull it off.
So, then, the Cubs and Twins could be the primary suitors at this point for Darvish. Sure, the Twins are known to be very eager to spend on pitching this offseason, but in a head-to-head race, I’d bet on the Cubs if they were serious.
Before you get too excited, though, remember this: there are three top starting pitchers out there in free agency (Darvish, Jake Arrieta, and Alex Cobb), and they will all find jobs. So at least one other team is going to get involved at some point, even if by default. The Cardinals, for one example, are known to have the money and the interest in this tier of pitcher.
That said, it remains a very good offseason to be in the Cubs’ position, and to be patient on these three starting pitchers.