The New York Yankees are interested in signing Dodgers righty Yu Darvish. Why? Well, you can never have enough pitching, but outside of that recurring notion, their interest in him doesn’t make sense.
The Yankees were just one win away from advancing to the World Series last season, and not being able to win a game in Houston will continue to haunt them unless they can get to and win the Fall Classic. This offseason, management has committed itself to being all-in on winning as soon as possible. By essentially buying MVP right fielder Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins (absorbing $265 million of his deal via trade), they’ve put in place, arguably, the most dangerous lineup in baseball. Joining forces with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Greg Bird, Aaron Hicks, and Brett Gardner, Stanton gives first-year manager Aaron Boone even more star power in the middle of the order.
In addition to trading for Stanton, the Yankees also re-signed lefty C.C. Sabathia on a one-year deal. Retaining the veteran southpaw keeps what is already a very good rotation in place for 2018. With Luis Severino, who emerged as the Yankees’ ace in 2017, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, who was acquired in a midseason trade with the Oakland Athletics, and Sabathia in place, the Yankees have one of the more potent pitching staffs in MLB.
Would adding Darvish deepen and/or better the Yankees’ rotation? Possibly, but is it really worth all the side effects that come with doing so?
Despite the slow-moving period that has been free agency, it has been said that the Yankees offered Darvish a seven-year, $160 million year (per Michael Kay), but revoked it 48 hours after he didn’t accept. However, in an interview on WFAN’s “The Afternoon Drive With Carlin, Bart and Maggie,” general manager Brian Cashman reiterated that the team remains interested in signing Darvish. And if they commit such a hefty sum to Darvish, it’s a major risk based on his track record.
Can Darvish be an overpowering presence on the rubber when he has his command? Sure — in fact, he has totaled three 200-strikeout seasons over the course of his five-year career. He also owns a career 3.42 ERA, despite posting a 3.86 ERA in 2017. Darvish’s strikeout prowess and ability to pitch to a low ERA make him a top of the rotation arm. On the other hand, inconsistency and durability have plagued him.
Suffering a number of elbow injuries and shoulder discomfort, Darvish has dealt with the injury bug over the course of his career. He has also been a no-show in the playoffs, most recently this past season.
While Darvish was coming off a 2016 postseason outing where he surrendered four home runs, he was able to bounce back in his first two outings of the 2017 playoffs. Giving up just two earned runs in 11.1 innings pitched over two starts, he was able to settle in and get through innings. Then, the World Series happened.
Failing to get out of the second inning in back-to-back outings versus the Astros (Game 3 and Game 7) and giving up four earned runs in each of those World Series starts, Darvish was a liability on the hill when it mattered most. He put the Dodgers in a hole from the get-go in both outings that they weren’t able to overcome. And it has been the norm over the righty’s career. When Darvish gets hit hard and puts runners on base early, he loses his command and confidence in his breaking pitches. Is a pitcher with a shaky postseason run under his belt and someone who isn’t quite a bonafide ace worthy of a mega-deal on a Yankees team that isn’t in need of such a presence at the top of its rotation?
Maybe the most puzzling aspect of the Yankees’ interest in Darvish is the fact that payroll would have to be cleared in order to go forth with such a transaction, and the name that has repeatedly popped up as a candidate to be moved is reliever David Robertson — who is crucial to their team’s lethal bullpen.
While the Yankees bullpen is deep with Aroldis Chapman, Tommy Kahnle, Dellin Betances, and Chad Green, Robertson is a key member of their staff. After being acquired at the trade deadline, Robertson was lights-out in the late innings. Pitching to a 1.03 ERA and 0.74 WHIP, while recording 51 strikeouts in 35.0 innings pitched, he was arguably their most prominent reliever in 2017. His most memorable moment was his heroic 3.1 scoreless innings of relief in their Wild Card matchup with the Minnesota Twins — although he was hot and cold in the postseason, as a whole, finishing with a 4.15 ERA.
Robertson is one of the best setup relievers in baseball. He’s a strikeout pitcher who hits his spots on breaking pitches and is reliable; trading him for the sake of signing Darvish would be foolish.
Darvish is one of the better strikeouts righties the game has to offer. But he’s inconsistent, unreliable in October, and has dealt with elbow woes in the past. More importantly, the Yankees’ quartet of Severino-Tanaka-Gray-Sabathia makes the addition of a premier righty (Darvish) unnecessary.
All 30 MLB teams are looking at the silence on the free agent market and wondering if they should make a move as players’ price tags fall, but dishing out a huge deal to Darvish is a move the Yankees should not make. Everything that would have to take place, whether it be giving him a huge deal or trading off Robertson, is simply not worth it.