The New York Yankees would have to make some significant moves to sign free-agent starter Yu Darvish. Is he really worth all the hassle?
Many teams have shown interest in free agent righty Yu Darvish, including the New York Yankees. What started out as Brian Cashman doing “due diligence” has reportedly turned into something a bit more.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal recently reported that the Yankees were attempting to move salary in order to sign Darvish. While this news has gotten some fans excited, it really leaves one question left to be asked: Is he really worth the effort?
Darvish finished the 2017 regular season with a 10-12 record. 3.86 ERA and 209 strikeouts in 186.2 innings pitched in time split between the Texas Rangers and the defending National League champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Darvish is easily one of the more elite starters in the game and, arguably, the best pitcher still available. Does that make him the guy the Yankees need? No, it doesn’t.
Let’s look at the rotation the Yankees will have in 2018 without Darvish and what they did last season.
The ace, Luis Severino, finished third in 2017 in American League Cy Young Award voting, posting a 14-6 record, 2.98 ERA and 230 strikeouts over 193.1 innings pitched.
Masahiro Tanaka suffered a down year with a 13-12 record, 4.74 ERA, and 194 strikeouts in 178.1 innings but finished the year strong and shined in the playoffs.
Sonny Gray came over at the trade deadline from the Oakland Athletics and ended the year with a 10-12 record, 3.55 ERA, and 153 strikeouts in 162.1 innings pitched. Solid, albeit unspectacular.
The big lefty, CC Sabathia, continued his career renaissance in 2017. He finished with a 14-5 record, 3.69 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 148.2 innings pitched. Sabathia signed a one-year, $10 million contract to stay with the team.
Rounding out the rotation is Jordan Montgomery, fresh off a solid rookie season. Monty posted a 9-7 record, 3.88 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 155.1 innings pitched.
The Yankees clearly have a solid rotation set for 2018 and have plenty of pitching prospects to come help during the season, such as Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield, and Dillon Tate, all of whom have been invited to attend spring training this year. While it’s unlikely any will break camp with the club, all three could spend time in the Bronx.
But if the Yankees feel the prospects aren’t major-league ready and they need to sign somebody, there are cheaper options out there than Darvish.
The Yankees have roughly $15 million to play with this offseason, while Darvish and Jake Arrieta are likely to land deals worth $20 million a year. The Yanks’ available cash, though, should be enough to land Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn.
Cobb, who has spent his entire career with the Tampa Bay Rays, finished 2017 with a 12-10 record, 3.66 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 179.1 innings pitched. Lynn, who also spent his entire career with one team (St. Louis), posted similar numbers, going 11-8 with a 3.43 ERA and 153 strikeouts over 186.1 innings of work.
Both Cobb and Lynn are good pitchers. Either one would add to an already good rotation and not require the Yankees to break the bank.
That said, if the Yankees have their hearts set on Darvish—and stay under the $197 luxury tax threshold—they’ve got work to do.
The Yankees would have to move the contract of Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury makes a little over $21 million per year and would give the Yankees a lot of wiggle room to get Darvish. The only issue is that Ellsbury won’t go easy.
Ellsbury’s deal gives him a full no-trade clause and he has shown no intention of waiving it despite being, at best, the fifth outfielder on the depth chart. Between his ability to block trades and his contract, which the Yankees would have to eat most of to convince another team to take him, make a deal incredibly unlikely.
Could Darvish end up in pinstripes before it’s all said and done? Sure. But should he be? Not really. The Yankees rotation is in a good spot right now. There’s no reason for them to spend a boatload of money to fill a need they don’t have.