YU Darvish’s future is up in the air – and that means a whole bunch of Major League Baseball (MLB) teams will be rooting for a Texas Rangers slump over the next week.
The Rangers have reportedly told teams that if they drop further back in the wildcard race, ace Japanese pitcher Darvish “could become available”.
With the July 31 trade deadline looming large, and the Rangers 17.5 games behind divisional rivals Houston Astros, their only hope of reaching the play-offs is through the wildcard.
But Wednesday’s 10-2 loss against Baltimore Orioles has left the Rangers 3.5 games adrift in the wildcard race, with a losing 45-49 record overall.
Darvish, who is 6-8 for the season, is expected to return to the mound on Friday when the Rangers face Tampa Bay Rays in Florida, with the noise around his future as loud as it has been.
While the right-hander is having statistically the worst season of his MLB pitches (never has he finished a season with a losing record), he featured in his fourth All-Star game earlier this month and remains a prized asset.
He is still the top starting pitcher for the Rangers and will be a highly sought-after asset elsewhere if Texas continues to falter in the American League West.
That means a number of contenders throughout the MLB will be looking at the Rangers’ schedule for the remainder of July and hoping their current four-game losing streak continues.
If it does, Rangers could be tempted to push the button on trading Darvish, who becomes a free agent this summer, rather than risk losing him for nothing.
For the Rangers to deal Darvish, they would need to be confident that: a) they are not going to make the play-offs and b) Yu himself would not be willing to sign an extended contract when his existing US$60 million, six-year deal expires at the end of this season.
The indications to this point – at least publicly – are that both the player and the team would be keen to extend their five-year relationship.
rangers are hoping and expecting to be a buyer mostly of pen pieces. but they've told teams, if they fall Yu Darvish could become available.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 19, 2017
But pitchers of Darvish’s quality – certainly ones who may become available between now and July 31 – are few and far between.
And if a team with serious designs on winning the World Series wants to increase its chances, a trade may start to make sense.
Being a rare free-agent pitcher with All-Star pedigree, Darvish is set to cash in on a huge new deal this autumn.
But whether that deal is with Texas, who brought Darvish to the US from Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in 2012 – or elsewhere – could be decided in the next week or so.