We’ve been offered plenty of reasons for “the Yu Darvish holdup” over the past week, from late aggressive pursuers (like the Brewers), to teams holding the line on their offers (like the Cubs), to teams trying to move salary so they can make a run (like the Dodgers, Yankees, and maybe Rangers).
We’ve also heard that Darvish’s camp may simply be looking to get the offers up to an acceptable level, but we haven’t really heard exactly where that acceptable level is for him. We know that four years is not ideal, since that’s where the Cubs already seem to be and no deal is done. We also know that five years from a team like the Twins or Brewers probably isn’t ideal, either, since, again, no deal is done.
If the Cubs just add that one more year, and get up to that five-year, $125 million range … will that do it? That’s a very solid AAV for Darvish, but a very reasonable contract overall for a free agent pitcher of his caliber. Setting aside all the stuff about which teams are in and which teams are out, would that kind of offer – from a team some believe is Darvish’s preferred realistic destination – be enough to get the deal done?
According to what Jon Heyman has heard, it would not.
In an article mostly about the Brewers’ aggressiveness in the pitching market, Heyman mentions almost off-hand via sources that that Darvish already has at least one five-year offer (Twins or Brewers?), and multiple offers of at least $100 million (those teams plus Cubs, who were reportedly in on Jake Arrieta at about four years and $110 million?). But that’s not where Darvish is looking to be, instead reportedly “seeking something closer to” the seven-year, $175 million deal Stephen Strasburg received from the Nationals before he would have hit free agency after the 2016 season.
As a comparison, you can see some similarities there, as both are big righties with overwhelming stuff, who had returned healthy from Tommy John surgery. Perhaps you could point to other health woes in Strasburg’s history at the time that aren’t there for Darvish, but you’d also have to point out that Strasburg didn’t throw the kind of competitive innings Darvish did in Japan before coming to the States. You’d also have to point out that Strasburg, when healthy, is simply better than Darvish. And you’d definitely have to point out that Strasburg was three years younger than Darvish is now when he signed his deal.
In other words, even accounting for the market’s move upwards, it’s very hard for me to see the Strasburg deal as a reasonable expectation for Darvish’s camp.
Four years and $100 million is probably a pipe dream for teams like the Cubs, but seven years and $175 million is nearly as extreme in the other direction. It’s always felt like five or maybe six years with a $25-ish million AAV was going to be the right level for Darvish, and that still feels like it will be the case when all is said and done.
Interestingly, as the negotiations push closer to that Strasburgian level, you could more easily see why it becomes less likely that a small market club like the Twins or Brewers could stay in the hunt. Moreover, as the rumored dollar amount gets higher, it becomes increasingly more difficult to believe teams battling the luxury tax threshold, like the Dodgers and Yankees (let alone the Rangers, who are more simply not willing to spend that much right now), would be there either. The Cubs, then, could be in a unique position to land Darvish if they’re willing to pay handsomely for the privilege.
Note that the report doesn’t say Darvish is expecting to get exactly that Strasburg deal, by the way – just something “closer to it” than the four or five-year, $100-ish million offers he’s received. And, again, I think that’s probably where things wind up eventually.
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