Do we now know the identity of the Yu Darvish Mystery Team? Er … *a* Yu Darvish Mystery Team? Just … uh … the latest Yu Darvish Mystery Team?
Whatever you want to call them, this is a team that I’ve always thought made sense:
#Phillies checking in with Darvish and most of high-profile free agents, sources tell The Athletic. Idea is to assess respective markets to see if deal makes sense. Unlikely Phils would be high bidder, but if player fell into their range – preferably short-term – they might jump.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 24, 2018
The Phillies are (1) a large market club, (2) a team with a ton of space under the luxury tax cap, (3) a team with plenty of money to spend in any case, (4) a team that needs quality starting pitching, and (5) a young team in the second half of a rebuild that could see them turning the corner this or next year.
How is that not the perfect recipe for the Phillies to go hard after a free agent like Darvish?
I recently wrote this about the Phillies in the Jake Arrieta context, another starting pitcher in whom they might have interest, but apparently only if they can get him on a three-year deal:
To that end, Phillies young outfielder Nick Williams has been working out in Texas this offseason, and he happens to work out at the same place as Arrieta (who has been kind and gracious with the youngster, as it turns out). Williams says he isn’t trying to recruit Arrieta to the Phillies, because he already knows Arrieta loves Philadelphia (Philly.com).
Organizationally, it sounds from that article like the Phillies are opposed to giving a free agent starting pitcher longer than a three-year deal, which would be the primary hold-up in a pursuit of Arrieta. But they are definitely pursuing pitching, according to their new manager, Gabe Kapler, and Arrieta could wind up an option depending on how the offseason plays out. It’s tough to imagine Arrieta having to settle for a three-year deal, but I don’t think anyone wants to predict anything at this point.
The Phillies’ payroll for luxury tax purposes right now is just $85 million (Cot’s). Even at this phase of their rebuild, that seems criminally low for their market, their revenue, and their ability to become a competitive team as soon as this year. You’d think Arrieta could be a key piece of that. (Or another top free agent starter, to be fair.)
Another top free agent starter … like Yu Darvish. I don’t think there’s a very real chance of the Phillies landing Darvish on a high AAV three-year deal, but if they decide to change course, and are willing to go to five years? They could be a real player in the market for Darvish’s services.
Of course, giving the couching going on in Rosenthal’s report, you wonder if this is simple a little bit of market-making by the Darvish camp, as negotiations with other teams draw to a close. Like … maybe if those other teams would just up their offer a little bit, we can get this deal done and not worry about those Phillies (or those Twins).