Last night, Yu Darvish had some fun with reporting about the final teams in on the hunt for his services this offseason, essentially saying that there was one more team talking to him besides the well-known Cubs, Astros, Yankees, Twins, and Rangers.
My take about that “sixth” team was this:
[T]here was a rumor connecting the Cardinals to Darvish, and they’d certainly make sense (both because they have the money and the need, and also because it could put a little pressure on the Cubs). You could certainly make an argument for a team like the Angels or a team like the Phillies, and the Dodgers are probably willing to be a “yeah, we’re still hanging around” team. So, in that context, it makes sense that there might be a sixth team that is “in.” Heck, there might be 10.
And, to the extent there is a true “sixth” team, you could say it’s the Dodgers … but it sounds a lot more like they are “still hanging around” as opposed to vigorously pursuing:
Yes, my understanding is the Dodgers are still in the mix, despite the financial hurdles. https://t.co/9FancGItI4
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) January 11, 2018
It has always been the case that the two teams that should scare you most on Darvish – if you really, really want him for the Cubs, that is – are the Yankees and Dodgers. Yes, they are clearly seeking to stay under the luxury tax cap this year so that they can reset their penalties before the massive class next offseason, but there are moves they can make to free up enough space to make Darvish happen. I don’t think it’s likely, but until he signs, they’re going to stick around and try to take a swing.
And to that end:
Cashman says he's talked to Darvish's agent, but says the team would have to clear $$$ space to add him. #Yankees
— Brendan Kuty (@BrendanKutyNJ) January 11, 2018
The Yankees could probably squeeze a $20 to $25 million AAV in to sign Darvish, but they’d then be left with no wiggle room for in-season trades and/or bonus accumulation. A team that wants to be sure it can stay under the luxury tax cap going into a season is probably going to need to leave several million in buffer available, just to be safe.
So far, thankfully, the Yankees aren’t having luck clearing out that payroll with the most obvious move they have available: trading Jacoby Ellsbury and his $21.8 million AAV. Jon Heyman reports that the Yankees have indicated they’re willing to eat up to half of the money remaining on his deal (he’s owed about $63.5 million over the next three years), but they aren’t finding a taker. Not yet, anyway. At that price, even coming off at down three-year stretch and being 34 years old, he might be a cost-effective complementary outfielder for a playoff contender (and you might even be able to squeeze a prospect out of the Yankees, too).
*IF* the outfield market gets moving quickly enough to clarify what options are available to teams, and *IF* the Yankees can find a team that’ll take Ellsbury to which he won’t block a trade with his no-trade clause, then maybe a move gets made, and then you should immediately watch out for a Darvish signing. But how long will Darvish wait? How long will the other teams talking to him wait?
For the Dodgers, it’s a similar story – their best bet would be unloading some aging outfielder salary in the form of Matt Kemp, but the market just isn’t there for him right now. They could also try to move Yasiel Puig, but his AAV number is just $6 million. Kemp’s is $20 million. Again: how long are teams and Darvish willing to wait?