Thanks to the unique free agent climate created by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and its luxury tax provisions, things are not playing out this offseason like you’d expect.
But then, some things never change.
Even as the New York Yankees work to get under the luxury tax for the first time ever, resetting their penalties ahead of next offseason’s blowout free agent class, they are being attached to the top free agent arm on the market (the one attached to Yu Darvish’s shoulder).
First, it was Ken Rosenthal indicating that the Yankees and Dodgers were still interested in Darvish, and now it’s the New York Post, quoting a source who says, “They are sniffing around in case the price drops” from the reported $20 to $25 million annually.
Even if the Yankees were able to get Darvish at a level $20 million per year or lower (which assumes that an interested team like the Cubs doesn’t outbid that and impress Darvish with their organization), they’d still have to clear salary to make it work while staying under the luxury tax. The most obvious move would be to trade Jacoby Ellsbury ($21.9 AAV) for some salary relief, but there are three problems there: (1) Ellsbury has $68 million guaranteed left on his deal over the next three years; (2) Ellsbury has a no-trade clause, and only “might” be willing to waive it in trades to certain teams (Heyman); and (3) Ellsbury has had three only so-so years in a row heading into his 34 season.
I am still inclined to believe Darvish to the Yankees is not going to happen, and view teams like the Twins and Astros as more legitimate threats to the Cubs, to the extent Darvish is their top target. Remember: it’s entirely possible that the Cubs themselves are only in on Darvish to the extent that they could get him on a surprisingly reasonably four-year deal.