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Yankees potential trade target: Yu Darvish

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If the Rangers ace comes up for sale, should the Yankees be interested?

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Texas Rangers Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

With two weeks to go until the non-waiver trade deadline, the top pitching commodity is already off the board. Last Thursday, the Cubs acquired left-hander Jose Quintana from the White Sox in exchange for a hefty package of prospects. Given his status as an elite pitcher and his bargain of a contract, it’s fair to call Quintana the prize of the summer.

That said, other impact pitchers are available. Rangers ace Yu Darvish stands out as one of the more intriguing options. There are conflicting reports over whether Texas intends to sell. According to Jerry Crasnick, the club will listen to offers on Darvish and Cole Hamels. On the other hand, Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels indicated that he would like to retain the right-hander beyond this season.

Assuming Darvish does wind up available, would he make sense for the Yankees? Strictly in terms of performance, the answer is yes. The 30-year-old owns a 3.45 ERA across 125.1 innings this season. His peripherals are rock solid, too. He has a 3.73 FIP and 9.41 K/9 rate. Darvish walks a few too many batters, with a 3.02 BB/9, but that’s par for the course with him. That level of pitching would fit nicely in any rotation.

This isn’t new for Darvish, either. He has nearly 800 innings logged in the big leagues to back that up. If anything, his performance this season is a tick below his career average 3.32 ERA. That’s especially true when considering his peripheral numbers. They’re all trending downward.

Credit: FanGraphs

He’s striking out the fewest number of batters over nine innings since arriving stateside in 2012. He’s also become increasingly home run prone. Should that scare the Yankees off? A close look at his stuff suggests otherwise.

Darvish is equipped with a full arsenal. He has a variety of fastballs that he pairs with a sweeping slider. He’s also known for a big curveball that he can throw at a number of speeds. He occasionally breaks out a changeup and a splitter, but those are mostly show-me pitches. The good news is that there are no dramatic changes in his pitch selection this year.

Credit: Brooks Baseball

The real noticeable difference between the 2017 version of Darvish and his previous seasons is his curveball. He hasn’t gone to it as often this year. He’s relying mainly on his fastballs and slider. Interestingly enough, that’s where he’s been burned the most. According to Baseball Savant, 13 of his 15 home runs have come on those pitches.

On the bright side, his stuff has held constant over recent years, especially after his Tommy John surgery.

Credit: Brooks Baseball

There’s been a slight drop in velocity on his cutter, but otherwise everything looks normal. That suggests to me that Darvish’s long ball problems are due to regress. He will always be a little home run happy — he owns a career 0.94 HR/9 —- but his stuff checks out. Darvish is a great pitcher.

The hangup here is Darvish’s contract status. He will be a free agent after the season, so he’s strictly a hired gun. If the Rangers can’t extend him, there’s no reason to suspect that the Yankees can. Brian Cashman has expressed that the team intends to act as careful buyers this summer. That seems to rule out Darvish, as he figures to cost quality prospects and isn’t the young, controllable starter the team has coveted.

Should the Yankees decide to wade into the rental waters, the club would struggle to find a better pitcher than Darvish. He’s a workhorse arm who could pitch towards the front of the rotation. It’s difficult to envision the Yankees abandoning their long-term strategy, but if they do, it would be for someone like Darvish.