And with their biggest remaining hole stemming from a rotation that already had needs and is without Jimmy Nelson until at least June, their presence in the starting pitcher market is no surprise. Until now, however, we worked on the assumption that the Brewers would probably use their outfield glut to make a trade for a starter and if that didn’t work out, they’d dabble, at most, in the lower end of free agency (Alex Cobb/Lance Lynn’s tier or lower). They are already pushing a $100 million payroll for 2018, and that has tended to be their upper limit in recent years.
But, nope …
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 30, 2018
According to Jon Heyman’s and Robert Murray’s sources, the Brewers are not only interested in reeling in this offseason’s big fish, Yu Darvish, but they’re currently “in discussions” with him and “appear to be very much in the mix.”
In fact, and this is fairly unbelievable at this point (given how little we’ve heard about it so far), Heyman writes that people throughout the league have suggested that the Brewers have been one of the most aggressive Darvish suitors this offseason!
Outside of that one report out of Japan early last week about a Brewers offer (*before* the Yelich/Cain moves), we really haven’t heard anything like this.
Anyway, if you’re wondering if they’ll be willing/able to afford the sort of contract that Darvish will likely command, Heyman says they can, at least if past payrolls are any indication: “The Brewers should have plenty of money available to sign Darvish, as their current payroll is roughly $82.5 million. In previous years, they have shown a willingness to spend, as they had a $103.6 million payroll in 2013.” For what it’s worth, Cot’s has the team’s on-field payroll already at $91 million, which seems like a pretty significant difference for a small-market club.
Now, with all that said, we can’t be sure this isn’t anything more than a bit more smoke. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time one team’s rival jumps into a free agent’s market at the last minute to drive up the price, and maybe the Brewers are afraid the Cubs really might get Darvish on a four-year deal.
Similarly, we’ve had these reports this week about the Dodgers and Rangers being the *real* place Darvish wants to go, so you also have to consider the possibility that this is Darvish’s camp floating the Brewers’ aggressiveness to push one of those teams or the Cubs, if he has no real interest in going to Milwaukee (even if they have very real interest in him).
Given how aggressive the Brewers have been lately across the board, the best guess here is that – at a minimum – their interest is sincere. Even logically, it makes some sense. At the outset of the offseason, some wondered if Jake Arrieta might be a target for the Brewers to kickstart their next cycle of competitiveness the same way Jon Lester did for the Cubs back in 2015. I had assumed, until now, that Cain/Yelich combination was “that move,” but perhaps they’re not done yet. And given how easily Darvish fits into the rotation – ahead of Zach Davies and Chase Anderson – and how solid of a front-four they can have when Jimmy Nelson comes back … suddenly the Brewers could look pretty scary.
We’ll see if anything comes of it, but for now, stay alert. Because after being “down” to the Cubs and Twins, the race for Darvish suddenly looks like it’s right back up to healthy host of teams. (Just the way Darvish wants it?)
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.