In yesterday’s Lukewarm Stove, Bruce Levine re-confirmed that the Cubs’ priority at the moment remains acquiring a starting pitcher, and Yu Darvish is still their top target.
All signs pointed to Alex Cobb earlier in the offseason, but as his agressive contract demands became more clear (both in dollars and years), so did the reasons for spending a little bit more and going after Darvish instead. And, hey, with the Yankees and Dodgers largely sidelined by luxury tax implications, the Phillies, Giants, Tigers, and Rangers in transitional years, and the Red Sox and Nationals mostly set in the rotation, the Cubs figured to have the biggest pocketbook at the party (or, at least bigger than the Twins and Astros, who’ve also been connected to Darvish), so why not give it a shot?
But maybe that’s changing.
Jon Heyman (FanRag Sports) discussed the Yankees’ battle plans for their 2018 rotation, and while a trade for Pirates starter Gerrit Cole remains the best fit overall, a late-game pursuit of Darvish isn’t out of the question: “New York Yankees people do like Yu Darvish, and at a reasonable price, he will be seriously considered.”
Heyman concedes that squeezing Darvish in while remaining under the $197M luxury tax threshold for 2018 will be a challenge, but it’s apparently possible if they can move a little money around. The most obvious effort to that effect, has been trying to move Jacoby Ellsbury, but the down years, the $68.5M he’s due, and the full no-trade protection are significant barriers.
So if the Yankees are able to move Ellsbury, you might see their interest in Darvish tick up … or you might see their reported interest in Darvish tick up to apply pressure on the Pirates to accept a packaged for Cole centered around outfielder Clint Frazier and not former Cubs prospect Gleyber Torres. Given that your interests lie somewhere along the lines of the Cubs getting Darvish on a reasonable deal and the Pirates *not* getting Gleyber Torres, you should probably be rooting for the Pirates and Yankees to get something done, or that Ellsbury stays put.
But let’s be fair, even if the Yankees do move Ellsbury and the $21.1M he’s due next season, there’s no guarantee that 1. the Yankees could give Darvish the best offer and 2. Darvish has any interest in the Bronx. Indeed, a recent rumor had Darvish still looking in that $25-30M range, with the notable point that the Rangers would also jump into the fold if his price tag fell into that $20-25M range. In other words, even if the Yankees made space, and even if Darvish was somewhat interested in playing there, and even if Darvish’s price tag fell within their limited range (#branding), the Yankees would have some serious competition outside of the teams already involved.
All things considered, I’m willing to bet that the Yankees’ interest in Darvish is at least somewhat leverage-related to trade negotiations elsewhere. They’d need a lot of things to go right get Darvish in pinstripes next season, and I just don’t see it happening. But it’s under consideration.