When Shohei Ohtani was making his trip through free agency earlier this offseason, we knew, definitively, which seven teams were on his list of finalists.
And although it’s pretty rare to get such clear confirmation of a free agent/player’s preferences, we usually can get a pretty good sense of where he’d like to go, especially after more and more time has passed.
So you’d think, then, that by now (the day after Christmas), we’d at least have a better picture of where baseball’s number one free agent, Yu Darvish, would like to sign. And yet … it’s still fairly up in the air.
To be sure, we know that the Cubs, Twins, and Astros are all more or less involved, and a handful of other teams have hung out around the periphery – including the Dodgers, Phillies, and even Yankees, whose legitimate interests are hard to pin down. But we don’t even know if the Rangers, Darvish’s former team (and, outside of a half season with the Dodgers, the only team he’s known in the States) – are involved, or if they plan to be.
Yes, it’s very uncommon for a free agent to re-sign with a team that just traded him away the year prior, but it’s definitely not unheard of. Aroldis Chapman re-signed with the Yankees about five months after they traded him to the Cubs. It happens. And for a player from another country, the comfort of a familiar city might play an unusually large role.
And to that end, you should know, the Rangers and Darvish are reportedly staying in contact.
Jeff Wilson (Star Telegram) writes that Darvish could be the perfect Christmas present for Rangers fans, and could be a perfect fit if the owners decide to open their pocketbooks. It makes some sense that if the Rangers were seriously considering paying Darvish what he’s worth, they’d immediately become favorites to land him this winter given the relationships and history involved.
Fortunately, for all you Darvish/Cubs fans out there, Wilson reports that the Rangers have “made it clear that Darvish’s current asking price is too high based on the restraints of the Rangers’ budget.” But Wilson also points out that given the slow-moving markets, Darvish’s price could soon fall (or he could take less for a full no-trade clause) and, in that case the Rangers could take a seat at the table. Wilson seems to suggest the initial asking price was in the $25 to $30 million range annually, and the Rangers might get involved if it drops into the $20 to $25 million range.
Further, Wilson seems to really buy into the idea that Darvish loves Texas – where his family, friends, and “team of dogs” reside permanently – and would prefer to stay there all things equal. So, here’s to hoping all things ($$$) aren’t equal.
Again, the Rangers are a big enough market and their owners are wealthy enough to pay Darvish whatever he wants, but, so far, it seems that they may let this one go – and that could be very good news for the Cubs.
For more on the Cubs and Darvish, see his projections here and the relative merits of Darvish versus Jake Arrieta here.