The baseball world waits on Shohei Ohtani’s decision of where he’ll pitch next year as the first big domino to fall in the free agent market. Once that matter is done and dusted, teams in need of starting pitching will likely set their sights on Yu Darvish.
As far as second place prizes go, Darvish isn’t terrible. However, there are reasons he isn’t going to be considered the true prize of the offseason. He threw 186.2 innings for the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers last season, pitching to a 3.86 ERA and a 3.83 FIP. It was good enough for 3.5 fWAR, which was the second-lowest mark in his time in the United States.
Darvish’s strikeout numbers remain good at 10+ K/9, but he experienced an uptick in home runs in 2017, giving up 1.3 per game. That kind of statistic will put fear in Yankees fans fully aware of how the confines of Yankee Stadium play on fly balls. His 15.1% HR/FB ratio was the second highest of his big league career.
Workload may also come into play for whatever team intends to sign Darvish this offseason. He has topped 200 innings just once in his time in the United States and was limited to just 100 innings in 2016. For a pitcher expected to be the ace of the staff, and one who will certainly command a large contract, most teams are going to want to find a bit more reliability when it comes to the best pitcher on their staff.
In New York, Darvish wouldn’t be asked to be the ace, for better or worse. The Yankees have Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka already under contract for next year. Their hopes are certainly set on landing Ohtani as well. Still, their investment in a pitcher like Darvish would be relying on dependability.
Should the Yankees lose out on the Ohtani sweepstakes, it’s unlikely that they will pursue a pitcher likely to receive as big of a deal as Darvish is likely to command. However, if they decide they’d still like to make a splash in the free agent market to compete with whichever team gets Ohtani, if that isn’t them, then the option will still exist.