With a few days to reflect, I have two theories of what I think might have happened.
A) I've always been extremely skeptical whenever TR and ownership said they never said no to money. Never believed it. Why would a GM hamstring himself, if ownership is practically begging him to spend more money?
So, perhaps Falvine took Pohlad at his word?
They start getting everyone amped up for Darvish, genuinely. Even Pohlad gets in on the hype, because he assumes they get the bit, and are just trying to build some pr for the upcoming season.
Then, when things start getting serious, Pohlad says, "whoa, guys. I figured the old regime would have filled you in. When you say ownership never says no to money, that's you falling on the sword for me. You didn't think you could really spend like a drunken sailor, did you?"
Falvine are devastated, but need to save face. So, they make an offer that, in real world dollars, looks like (and is) a lot of money. But, small enough that really has almost no chance.
Falvine, and Pohlad genuinely were going to do what it took to get Darvish. They were prepared to go to the upper levels of what he was projected to get.
But, the market was weird this year. The big dogs were sitting it out. And, that old Pohlad ideology of, let's get a bargain, let's really make sure we win this deal, starts creeping in.
Is it possible, they start to think. Can we have our cake and eat it too?
Maybe, just maybe, this off-season is so weird, that nobody will emerge with that 6th year, and that opt out.
Like a gambler talking himself into a long shot being a "can't miss", and throwing his mortgage payment onto a gimp horse, they convince themselves they can not just get Darvish, but get him at a bargain too.
I, obviously, think B is the more likely of the two, though I'm not sure A is PURE fantasy. I've just never believed this whole, oh Pohlad has never said no garbage.