Rangers righty Yu Darvish, one of the game’s most interesting players to watch in 2017, seems increasingly likely to test the open market after the season. According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, while Darvish is willing to consider a new deal with his current organization, “there has been little in the way of actual conversation with the front office this winter.”
As Grant explains, the lack of significant chatter about another contract may be more of a hindrance in this case than for most other players. Given Darvish’s combination of excellence on the mound, shaky health, and relative youth, any deal would likely require rather detailed bargaining on an array of contract terms (and also require the involvement of an insurer). Though Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals agreed to their recent extension one month into the 2016 season, that came about after months of back-and-forth, with the finalized agreement taking quite a while to hammer out even after the general parameters were in place.
It’s worth bearing in mind the Strasburg agreement for other reasons, too. The two pitchers have roughly similar profiles: dominating stuff, somewhat less dominant but still excellent results, and big health questions. That makes the $175MM deal struck by Strasburg a rather notable comp for a Darvish deal, though Strasburg’s advantage in age surely must be accounted for. (He was nearly three years younger last winter than Darvish is now.) With Strasburg again dealing with elbow questions late last year, though, it’s also a reminder of the risks.
Grant goes on to discuss some of the possible reasons that the Rangers may have for their apparent lack of action thus far on Darvish. Anticipated cost surely seems to be one plausible factor, and it’s also possible the organization prefers to remain more flexible at this stage rather than locking into a huge contract that would dictate so many other decisions.
Still, it’s tough to imagine the team won’t at least try to find out what it would take to get something done. And there surely is time to reverse course. It’s possible, too, that some communications have occurred but are being held very close to the vest. (In the case of Strasburg and the Nats, for example, the key talks took place at the ownership level; the deal came as a surprise when it was finally reported and then consummated in early May.)
Regardless of how things proceed between Darvish and the Rangers, he’ll be a fascinating player to follow in 2017. There are other possible contenders to be the “best starter available” in the 2017-18 free agent class — including Jake Arrieta, Johnny Cueto (if he opts out), and a host of others who could boost their stock with a big season — but few have as much to earn as Darvish. With 200+ dominating innings, Darvish may well be lined up for a guarantee approaching (or perhaps even exceeding) $200MM, but teams will be watching closely to see how his arm holds up.