Darvish Down To The Studs
Image courtesy of © Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsAt this point there’s been so much written about the fit between the two sides. Jay Jaffe recently noted that Darvish makes too much sense for Minnesota, and MLB.com’s Richard Justice put the Twins atop the list of teams needing to make a move (with Darvish being the suggestion). If Darvish to the Twins were to fall into the “beating a dead horse” category, we would’ve entered the sick and twisted level of punishment a long time ago.
So, what’s the hang up?
On his latest version of The Scoop podcast, Darren Wolfson noted the Twins have made Darvish a formal offer. The belief is that it’s of the four or five year variety, and that they aren’t keen on the idea of going to a sixth year (more on that in a minute). Also, while Chris Gimenez is now trying to recruit Darvish to Chicago, Mike Napoli believes it’s a matter of when (not if) he’ll be with Minnesota. The former Rangers teammate is playing an active role in recruiting the star pitcher to Thad Levine’s new club.
Now back to that sixth year and Darvish bit. Twins Daily’s Tom Froemming had a couple of noteworthy comments regarding Yu recently on Twitter. First and foremost, if the sixth year is what would get the deal done for the Twins and they decide to forego that opportunity, it would be a huge egg-on-face scenario. Despite lacking the ability to play in the big boy pool a vast majority of the time, Minnesota finds itself with a prime opportunity. Positioning themselves to offer something competitors can/will not in order to get a monumental deal done would like a big whiff.
Looking at what the market has to offer, Tom delves a bit deeper. A year from now, the free agent pitching crop isn’t going to yield much more than what Minnesota currently has in front of them. While Clayton Kershaw should headline that class, he’s going to be nowhere within the Twins means (especially with Los Angeles and New York attempting to position for a big spend). That leaves a group headlined by Dallas Keuchel, and rounded out by names like Patrick Corbin and Garret Richards.
Finally and maybe most importantly given the factors at play, Mr. Froemming quips “If the Twins just want to be a cute little small market team that builds from within that's fine. That's actually smart. But then you need to do things like trade away Brian Dozier.” This point makes a bunch of sense as well, and is akin to how the Tampa Bay Rays have operated. In flipping names like David Price, they’ve recouped controllable talent and tried to win outside of free agency. However, the crossroads for the Twins to pick a side is right in front of them.
As has been dissected plenty this offseason, Minnesota views a perfect storm for Darvish to end up in the Twin Cities. A bad division, prospects graduated to regulars, and a payroll begging to be expanded upon. If the Twins are not ready or able to take the plunge on Darvish at this juncture, there’s probably never going to be a time in which they are willing to make this sort of leap. There are only a few times in an organization's cycle of competitiveness that point directly at a certain line of decision-making. For Minnesota, this is it.
As I outlined here recently, there’s no denying that clubs are backing away from long-term big-money deals. The reality is that the back end of those deals leaves you significant opportunity to be exposed when a player begins to fall off a cliff. That being said, it also has to be applied on a case-by-case basis. While there are any number of players available in a given offseason, top-of-the-rotation pitchers rarely hit the market surrounded by ideal circumstances.
Should the Twins land Darvish on a six-year deal, it’s fair to assume that the final (and possibly even the fifth year) would be a wash. That being said, there are more than a few things in their corner here. First and foremost is the commodity that they’re starting with. Darvish is an elite level pitcher now. Assuming he falls off as time goes on, him going from a 3.70 ERA (16/17) to a 4.50 ERA and fifth starter at age 35-36 is hardly a massive failure. By starting with a higher talent level out of the gate, the expectation should be that the bottom wouldn’t drop out as deeply.
Second, payroll being what it is now, and should continue to be, positions the move well. Although Minnesota hasn’t kept up with inflation for years, they also haven’t been in a scenario in which supplementing the internal roster with outside talent would’ve made much difference. Before the emergence of young and controllable talent hit the big leagues, spending would’ve been at a time to do little more than tread water. Now with the roster where it is, 2018 should represent an organizational record in payroll, and that should continue to hold strong for the next several years.
Finally, Minnesota has been waiting for this opportunity for years. No, not the opportunity to sign Darvish, but instead the ability to “go for it,” with names like Buxton and Sano already in place. After having a top farm system for a number of years, those prospects have graduated. If by the time Yu Darvish is 36 or 37, the Twins have yet to accomplish anything, they’ll also be watching both Sano and Buxton stare 30 in the face. At that point, they’ll be established veterans on a roster waiting on the emergence of players headlined by Royce Lewis. This current core of graduated prospects was what the Twins needed to supplement, and the time to do so is now.
At the end of the day, Yu Darvish gives the Twins an opportunity to play in a space they so rarely have been able to. They can bring in an elite and necessary talent, while pushing them forward from a year in which they showed emergence. Seeing future salary relief in 2019 and beyond, Falvey and Levine should be able to continue to pump external talent into their established squad, and it could result in the best opportunity for a World Series run in years. It’s hard to suggest that any one offseason is defined solely on the shoulders of a singular player, but it’s equally hard to understate just how valuable the addition of the former Rangers ace would be.
Four years, five years, or six years, find the competitive advantage necessary to get a "Yes" and take the plunge.
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