Early last week, it looked like things were finally going to happen on the Yu Darvish front – and, in turn, perhaps, the rest of the free agent market. The Cubs had just signed back-up catcher Chris Gimenez (friend and former personal catcher of Darvish), and a nearly simultaneous report came out late on Monday night that the Cubs were in “active talks” with Darvish. It’s not that we thought Gimenez was a definite precursor to a Darvish signing, but the two things together at the same time, plus a bunch of teams seemingly dropping out of the race over the two weeks prior, sure gave it the “feel” that something was coming to a head.
Then … nothing happened. Instead, we learned that Darvish might actually still want to return to the Dodgers or Rangers if they can make it work financially. And we learned that the Brewers are being aggressive on Darvish even after using up payroll on Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. And we learned that the Cubs might be holding the line at four years, while the Twins are already at five years.
Any confidence that you may have developed that Darvish was going to sign soon – much less sign soon specifically with the Cubs – has to have waned over the past five days.
In conjunction with these events plus the Cubs’ announcement of the Jimmy Buffett concert, I had a little pain-medicated-brain fun:
Well, this was not the Ken Rosenthal tweet I was looking for this morning:
Per sources and reports, delay on Darvish seems to be stemming from number of factors: Efforts of #Yankees and #Dodgers to clear salary; entrance of new teams such as #Brewers into bidding; Darvish’s agents waiting to get their price. @RobertMurrayFRS, @McCulloughTimes on it.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 31, 2018
Rosenthal does an excellent job there synthesizing the reporting we’ve discussed over the past week, *together* with what I presume he’s hearing behind the scenes. The “real” holdup on Darvish is probably not a singular holdup – it’s probably all the things we’ve discussed. And when you have a team like the Cubs – the team actively in the mix that Darvish might otherwise really want to go to – holding the line at four years, it’s not like Darvish has a reason (yet) to say eff it to the other plausible teams and just sign with the Cubs.
Of all the reports, the one that probably makes me the most nervous is the Dodgers one. Sure, the Brewers getting Darvish would be even worse for the Cubs, but I still tend to think that’s less likely than the Dodgers – who have reason to want Darvish back, and who he’d reportedly like to stick with – clearing some payroll by trading useful guys like Yasmani Grandal, Logan Forsythe, and/or Hyun-Jin Ryu. Matt Kemp? I could see them having trouble moving him, even with a prospect, and even for minimal savings. But the other three? It’s much easier to see. And all the Dodgers have to do is stay under the luxury tax for this year, and then all indications are that they don’t care if they blow past it again next year. They are smart and creative, and it makes me nervous.
The hope remains that the Dodgers will be so steadfast in staying under the luxury tax cap, and so nervous that various bonuses and in-season needs will pop up, that they won’t be able to get far enough under the cap to have comfort committing $20+ million in AAV to Darvish right now.
From there, I’m gonna hope that the Yankees can’t move Jacoby Ellsbury, that the Twins and Brewers can’t make a large AAV offer (and that Darvish doesn’t really want to go to them anyway), and that the Rangers don’t suddenly decide to step up.
But it seems like we might be “hoping” for a good while yet, even as February begins tomorrow.