The Yankees and Yu Darvish have been continuously connected this offseason. It remains unclear if they will make a serious push to sign the right-hander, but if they do, the team will undoubtedly be better in the short term. For all his value, though, signing Darvish comes with quite a few red flags. Thus, not signing him might be a better play for the Yankees beyond 2018.
Rumors about Darvish to the Yankees have been sneaking into the news for about a month now. Just before Christmas, Ken Rosenthal first hinted at New York as a possible destination for Darvish. While reports about Gerrit Cole, Michael Fulmer, Chris Archer, and Patrick Corbin swirled, it seemed the “Darvish to New York” rumors died down a little bit—at least until earlier this week.
The 31-year-old has been vocal on Twitter about free agent speculation. Earlier this offseason, Darvish shot down rumors he was on his way to the Cubs. Then, on Wednesday night, he did not deny that the Yankees were one of six finalists to sign him.
I know one more team is in. https://t.co/exxubGP7Qo— ダルビッシュ有(Yu Darvish) (@faridyu) January 11, 2018
Since then, multiple reports have substantiated the rumors that the Yankees are in the running for Darvish. On Thursday, Brian Cashman confirmed the team’s interest and that he had been in talks with Darvish’s agent, Joel Wolfe. Cashman, however, refused to talk specifics.
On Twitter, it was reported that the Yankees offered him a seven-year, $160 million-dollar deal but rescinded it after Darvish didn’t accept. The right-hander corrected this rumor as well.
Sorry guys. My mistake.— ダルビッシュ有(Yu Darvish) (@faridyu) January 12, 2018
Actually they did make offer but the numbers are not correct. https://t.co/0mIvMlZTPJ
While the exact level remains unclear, there is undoubtedly some interest in adding Darvish to the rotation. Missing out on him, however, might actually be a good thing for the Yankees.
For at least the 2018 season, adding Darvish could be a potentially great thing. He’s a top-of-the-rotation talent whose track record speaks for itself. He has been an All-Star four times since his rookie year in 2012. Although he missed the entire 2015 season and half of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery, he bounced back to be essentially the same pitcher he was before he got hurt. He put up a 134 ERA+ in the half-season following surgery and a 118 ERA+ in 2017.
Putting him at or near the top of the Yankees’ rotation could make them the favorites for the American League pennant this year, but adding Darvish comes with serious costs and risks. Financially, he doesn’t make sense without first shedding salary. The Yankees have made it explicitly clear over the last few seasons that they are committed to getting under the luxury tax threshold. As it stands, the team is not really in a position to sign Darvish without first creating some financial space to fit his potential contract.
On paper, getting rid of Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract would be the ideal situation. finding Finding another suitor and getting Ellsbury to waive his no-trade clause, however, seriously complicate that move. In all likelihood, the Yankees would have to look elsewhere on their payroll— maybe to David Robertson— to create enough space to sign Darvish. Adding another pitcher to an already full rotation while subtracting perhaps the most reliable arm in the Yankees’ bullpen feels like a lateral move at best.
For all his talent, Darvish is on the wrong side of 30. He turned 31 last August and is likely looking for one more long-term deal before retirement. Advanced age and long-term contracts is a seriously dangerous combination the Yankees probably should avoid. Look at how quickly CC Sabathia broke down after his age-31 season, for example.
Darvish has already had Tommy John surgery, and has logged over 2000 professional innings on his arm. There’s a real risk that he’ll break down and become dead weight on the Yankees’ payroll. That is the last thing the team needs as their Baby Bombers start to head to arbitration and free agency. While adding Darvish to the 2018 roster definitely helps in the short-term, the cons outweigh the pros. The Yankees should stand pat with what they already have rather than add a potentially disastrous contract.