Rangers ace Yu Darvish is 30 years old, will be a free agent after this season, and is pitching at the high level he always does when healthy for a team that’s lost more than it’s won, all of which has made him a pretty obvious candidate to get moved before this month’s trade deadline. Now, according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the Rangers are ready to take some calls.
Crasnick reports that Rangers GM Jon Daniels is looking for the “right deal,” and has made it clear to potential suitors that he will hang on to Darvish if he doesn’t get an offer he likes. Teams looking to deal a player in the last year of his contract are not usually operating from a position of strength, but Daniels has the advantage of his team not yet quite being out of playoff contention.
The Rangers swept the Rays over the weekend and are currently 3.5 games back in the AL Wild Card race. Baseball Prospectus gives them a 19 percent chance of making the postseason, and although those aren’t great odds, they’re certainly enough that Daniels can credibly claim to potential trade partners (and his own fans) that he’s perfectly fine with the idea of holding on to Darvish for one last postseason push.
But should other teams be willing to pay a steep price for Darvish? Hell yes they should. Injuries have been an issue, and some of his stats seem a bit middling at first glance—he’s won just 52 games in five seasons and his career ERA is 3.44—but he’s exactly the kind of pitcher any team with a rotation hole should be desperate to get. Darvish has struck out a cool 11 guys per nine innings over the course of his career, and it wasn’t that long ago that he struck out 277 goddamn batters in just 209 innings. Nearly all of his pitches are designed to miss bats, and when Darvish is at his best, it’s not a stretch to call him unhittable.
Even as just a half-season rental, he’s pretty clearly the best starter available in the trade market. The Cubs already snapped up José Quintana, and although Gerrit Cole and Johnny Cueto might eventually become available, neither of those guys are in the same tier as Darvish. This is a guy with 32 career 10-strikeout games, and he’s suddenly there to be had. Someone should go get him.