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Do the Yankees hold the keys to baseball’s slow offseason?

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Brian Cashman might have more power than he knows.

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees
“I got everyone just where I want them.” - Cashman, probably.
Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Yesterday began the loveliest month of the calendar year. The one when all our hearts are filled with love and romance; we’re giddy because we know what’s coming in a few weeks. There are butterflies in our stomach and we jump with excitement. That’s what February brings every year. That’s when spring training gets underway.

You didn’t think I was talking about Valentine’s Day, did you?

Spring training is indeed almost here, and there are still so many free agents left unsigned. What’s happened this offseason — rather, hasn’t happened — is unprecedented, weird, and amazing in its own way. Everyone has their own theories and reasoning for what’s going on, but are the Yankees actually the ones behind the slow offseason? It all comes down to Yu Darvish.

From what we can see, all of baseball is waiting to see what Darvish will do. It seems pretty obvious that there’s mutual interest between the right-hander and the Yankees, but each have their respective prices. The Yankees will not make any move that sends them over the $197 million threshold. Darvish, meanwhile, doesn’t seem like he’s willing to settle for less than what he thinks he’s worth. Each side has a valid viewpoint.

The problem is that he also has other suitors. These teams all believe they still have a chance at landing him, and until they find out they can’t, they’re holding firm. For better or for worse, Darvish is holding up free agents from signing and the Yankees are holding Darvish up.

A couple of days ago, Ken Rosenthal tweeted some possible reasons for the Darvish delay:

The Yankees are trying to clear salary for him, but the only salary worth clearing is Jacoby Ellsbury. As Jason Cohen wrote, the Yankees can’t sign Darvish because of Ellsbury’s contract. They’d like to move Ellsbury, but that’s probably not happening. As long as the Yankees keep trying to make room for him, however, Darvish seems like he’ll wait it out.

That’s where the rest of the league gets stuck. Teams like the Cubs, Twins, and Brewers, to name a few, all need rotation help and Darvish is the top of the wishlist. Without knowing where he’s going, there’s no reason for them to move into the market for Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, or Alex Cobb. They’re all waiting on Darvish, who is waiting on the Yankees.

The Yankees and Darvish are currently baseball’s “Sam and Diane.” It’s not just the starting pitching market that’s been affected by this sitcom’s “will-they-won’t-they” storyline. The Yankees have money to sign another free agent, but they just don’t know who to choose. Well, that’s not entirely true. They would choose Darvish if they could, but if not, they might turn their focus towards Todd Frazier or Neil Walker.

They do seem to have faith in their current options for second and third base in Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. All sign point in that direction. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like some veteran insurance. The years and dollars and all that are clearly a bigger hold up, but the Yankees ability to only sign one free agent also has that market on hold.

There aren’t many options for the Fraziers and Walkers of the world. There only seems to be a handful of teams looking for what they have to offer, and the Yankees are definitely the most attractive of the bunch. After all, if I was Frazier, I’d wait until the Yankees definitively said no until I chose to sign with the Mets.

There’s no doubt that this year’s free agent class isn’t that strong. Teams are getting “smarter” (read: cheaper) about contracts and waiting for next year’s super class. All of that makes sense as to why things progressed slowly this offseason, but that wouldn’t explain why things haven’t progressed at all. Combining it with the Yankees playing games could explain some things.

We all know how much power Brian Cashman had within the Yankees organization, but has he actually been (unknowingly?) controlling all of baseball?