Texas Rangers rumors: Yu Darvish, the Texas Rangers’ top starting pitcher, is a free agent at the end of the season. The Texas Rangers are pretty much toast in the American League West race, and are one of eight or so teams who are currently vying for a Wild Card spot. If the Rangers were to be several games back in the Wild Card hunt come late July, with multiple teams to jump and a farm that could use re-stocking, its been speculated that the team could become a seller, with Darvish being the prime rent-a-pitcher available on the market.
However, that apparently isn’t happening. Jeff Passan writes that the Rangers have indicated they aren’t dealing Darvish, even if they fall out of the race, and notes that Ken Rosenthal has reported the same thing. Passan says that the Rangers want to re-sign Darvish, and feel the best way to make that happen is to keep him in a Ranger uniform this season, even if things go south this summer.
Darvish would, per reports, like to stay with the Rangers, and there were apparently preliminary discussions about a contract extension during spring training that were shelved. Texas could re-visit the situation at the All Star Break, or could ride this out, make a qualifying offer at the end of the season, and hope Darvish chooses to stay here.
It is, as Passan explains, a tricky situation, with Darvish turning 31 in August, and likely looking at a six or seven year deal, possibly with an opt-out halfway through. He has a ton of mileage between the U.S. and Japan, has undergone Tommy John surgery, and has dealt with various minor issues that have had him on the shelf from time to time.
He’s also the best pitcher on the Rangers, one of the best pitchers in team history, and perhaps the ultimate determinant in regards to how the Rangers will proceed after this season. If the Rangers keep Darvish, they appear to believe it would enhance their chances of signing Japanese pitcher Shohei Ohtani, considered the best pitcher in the Japanese League right now. He’s thought to potentially be coming to the U.S. after this season, despite the restrictions in place that will limit how much he can be paid, and the Rangers have been scouting him aggressively.
One line of thought has it that keeping Darvish would make it more likely Ohtani would sign with the Rangers, and if that’s the case, Texas could go into 2018 with Darvish, Ohtani, Cole Hamels and Martin Perez heading up their rotation, a situation which, with their young lineup, makes them a contender for 2018.
On the other hand...if Darvish doesn’t re-sign, and Ohtani goes elsewhere, the Ranger rotation for 2018 is looking pretty barren. In that scenario, there’s a good chance Adrian Beltre asks to be dealt, knowing that the chances of getting that elusive ring would be remote in Texas in 2018. And if you are dealing Beltre, you’re probably going to shop Cole Hamels, as well, and go into, if not “rebuild” mode, at least “retrench” mode, shooting for contention in 2019 or 2020.
So there’s a lot at play here. I believe the Rangers will pursue both Darvish and Ohtani aggressively, looking to build around that pair at the front of the rotation. But if they end up with neither, we could be looking at the Rangers shifting gears and making 2018 more about development.